No rest for Banyana

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Banyana_celebrate

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Banyana Banyana celebrate after beating Zambia.

Most coaches would consider the tie as good as won and be relaxed. But Joseph Mkhonza is cut from a different cloth.

After his side had virtually booked a place in the African Women’s Championships with a 4-1 final round, first leg victory in Zambia on Saturday, Banyana Banyana’s coach flatly refused to talk of qualification as guaranteed.

“There’s no formality in football,” he said as he spoke of the second leg match the South Africans will host at Mbombela Stadium on June 16. “We still have to secure our qualification and that means we need to be thoroughly prepared for the return match.”

Not that Mkhonza was not satisfied with the win that will require the Zambians to beat Banyana 4-0 if South Africa are to be denied a spot at the biennial, continental showpiece to be hosted by Equatorial Guinea in September. Far from it, for the man who has turned the senior national women’s team into an exciting unit that will participate at the Olympics in London was full of praise for his players.

“The girls did very well. We had a pretty tough first half because Zambia played very differently to what we’re used to,” he explained. “They pumped the ball high up into our area and they were all over us.”

South Africa have won their three recent ties against their southern African neighbours who, like them, love knocking the ball about and keeping it on the floor.

It was these unfamiliar tactics by the hosts at a fairly packed Nkoloma Stadium in the capital, Lusaka, that ensured there were no goals at half-time.

“We were very good in that we managed to contain them. The girls did not crack under the pressure they had to endure, and for me that was a sign they’re growing mentally. The stadium was full of the home crowd who were behind their team all the way but our girls stood their ground.”

That achieved, Banyana went on to dominate the second half, and put three past Zambian substitute goalkeeper Delly Lumwaya, on for number one Mirriam Katamauda who was injured early in the match.

The Zambians’ goalkeeping woes continued later in the game when Lumwaya herself got injured and had to go to join Katamauda in hospital.

Mkhonza’s team had no mercy and scored a fourth, this time past midfielder Chisala Musonda who had taken on the goalkeeping role.

Sanah Mollo was the star of the show for Banyana, the substitute scoring a brace to add to goals by Noko Matlou and Nothando Vilakazi.

“I am happy I scored two of the goals that led my country to victory. Scoring has boosted my confidence levels and I am hoping to carry this momentum into the second leg,” said the player known as Diego.

It was straight to camp for Banyana immediately upon arrival in the country on Sunday: “We’re now preparing for a friendly with Nigeria in Rustenburg on Saturday and we will also play them again as they’ve asked for a return match.

“This is all part of our preparation for the Olympics and I’m very happy that we’re making good progress.”

Comparing his team to earlier this year when they played in the Cyprus Cup, Mkhonza says the progress has been immense: “These girls grow with every game. Whereas, before they used to play their hearts out early and then fade as the game progressed, now they get better as the game gets older.

“We’ve developed a winning mentality and as a coach I couldn’t ask for more.” – Star Africa


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