Banyana Banyana Go Down Fighting

Banyana Banyana went down 2-1 to the Super Falcons of Nigeria in the semi-final match of the 9th edition of the African Women’s Championship on Wednesday at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Katutura, Windhoek.  Vera Pauw made four changes to the team that beat Algeria 5-1 on the weekend.  Thoko Mndaweni started in goals and Simphiwe Dludlu, Refiloe Jane and Shiwe Nogwanya returned to the starting 11.

But a first half brace by Nigeria’s Asisat Lamina Oshoala knocked South Africa for a spot in the final.  Jane pulled one back for Banyana Banyana midway through the second half, but it was a question of too little, too late.  Banyana Banyana had some great goal scoring opportunities in the opening minutes of the game.

First, Leandra Smeda made a cross into the box, but Jane failed to connect with a header after only eight minutes.  Moments later, 100-goal hero Portia Modise followed with another great chance, but she could not find the back of the net.  Mndaweni, who sat on the bench in the group stage matches made several great saves in the opening minutes of the game, keeping Banyana Banyana in the game.

Mndaweni cleared the ball out of danger in the 10th minute, before parrying a shot out for a corner a minute later and clearing again in the 17th minute in a one-on-one situation.  Banyana Banyana came close to breaking the deadlock in the 20th minute from a set-piece just outside the area, but Modise’s shot went wide.  Nigeria took the lead after a goal mouth scramble as Oshoala’s shot went past Mndaweni in the 37th minute.

The South Africans almost equalised five minutes later after the Nigerian keeper had spilled the ball.  However, her defence saved the day for the West Africans.  Soon after, Nigeria extended their lead when Oshoala completed her brace from a long range shot which went past an outstretched Mndaweni.

A challenging second half awaited Banyana Banyana as they went into the break trailing 2–0.  Jane pulled one back for South Africa in the 67th minute after an assist from second half substitution, Sanah Mollo.  But any chances for a remarkable comeback were thwarted by the resolute Nigerian defence despite wave after wave of Banyana Banyana attacks.

South Africa will have to battle it out with either Cameroon or Ivory Coast for a third place on Saturday, 25 October.