BULAWAYO – Banyana Banyana progressed to the last four of the Cosafa Women’s Championship with no defeats in their Group C matches, after they played 1-1 draw against Botswana on Sunday.
A late equaliser by Banyana’s super-sub striker, Chantelle Esau, was enough to save the national side’s blushes, following two spirited performances they had produced in their last two matches to secure a place in the semis with a game to go.
In the first period of this match-up, South Africa lacked the creative spark they showed in their last two games which they won by three goals each.
Knowing that they only needed a draw to finish on top of their group standings had a massive influence on how they approached this match.
Banyana were too casual in front of goal, leading to them missing a number of chances in the final third.
In the other match of Group C, Namibia were made to fight for their lives.
They approached their last match of Group C against Lesotho with the hope of winning that encounter with the highest score, so that they could be counted among the best second-place finishers to go through the final four of this Cosafa Women’s Championship.
Banyana coach Desiree Ellis made eight changes to the side that beat Namibia 3-1 in their previous group match.
That decision was influenced by the coach hoping to rest a majority of her key players going in to the semis, as they had played back-to-back matches in their last two games, with no day off in between.
Ellis, however, balanced that rotation of her squad with some experience in veteran players like Noko Matlou and Nompumelelo Nyandeni, to bring in stability in her inexperienced squad she had put out.
The combined experience of this two, alongside their captain Refiloe Jane controlling matters in the heart of midfield, helped South Africa to have a solid structure from the back moving up into the final third.
However, each time they did that, they were failed by the striking force of Nwabisa Kolisi, Rhoda Mulaudzi, Rachel Sebati and Nkoikoi Mabina, who just couldn’t score no matter how many chances they were presented with.
In the second half, though, Ellis brought in Chantelle Esau for Sebati to help her side have more aggression towards goal.
Just seven minutes from the break, South Africa were presented with another golden chance at goal when Nyandeni produced a beauty of a pass to find Mulaudzi, who was charging towards goal. The striker, however, failed to convert the opportunity.
Botswana took full advantage of South Africa’s napping defence and scored through Masego Nfandiso in the 84th minute with an easy tap-in.
Luckily enough for Banyana, though, Esau stepped up and scored the equaliser with only four minutes to go before fulltime with a beauty of a shot inside the area.