BULAWAYO – Banyana Banyana progressed to this year’s Cosafa Women’s Championship final after beating Zambia 5-3 on penalties on Thursday.
Goals by Leandra Smeda, who scored a brace in the second period of the match, and an easy tap-in by Rhoda Mulaudzi following a cross from Thembi Kgatlana, was enough to see the national side make it through to the penalty shoot-out in what could have been their worst performance of this tournament.
Lebohang Ramalepe scored the decisive penalty to send Banyana into the final.
In the first half, South Africa failed to apply the style of play which got them to this stage of the competition.
Desiree Ellis’ charges opted to play long balls each time they were on the attack, instead of the quick one-two carpet-football style of play, which saw them saunter past sides like Lesotho and Namibia in their first two group matches to book their semi-final spot with a game to go.
That decision affected Banyana pretty badly as it allowed their opponents more breathing space from the back, going into the final third.
Up in the final third, Zambia shone the brightest, compared to their opponents. They were more composed in front of goal, and took their shots towards the goal-mouth each time they were presented with half-chances.
Banyana lacked that in the first half. Both strike pair Thembi Kgatlana and Chantelle Esau were kept quiet by the opposition’s defence.
Refiloe Jane couldn’t make the team play with her well known passing game either. “She-polopolo” took full advantage of that weakness in Banyana’s camp, and scored two goals which saw them take the lead going into the halftime break.
Barbra Banda was the first one to put her name on the score-sheet. The Zambian attacking player sweetly converted the chance with a well-taken header to give her side the desired lead.
Grace Chanda was the one who followed with the second goal to make it 2-0 just before halftime.
In the second half, Banyana played with more power against their opponents, who thought that the game was done and dusted right after Grace Zulu scored a third just 27 minutes from the break.
However, Banyana had great heart and fought their way back, scoring the required three goals through Smeda’s brace and Rhoda Mulaudzi late tap-in, to send this encounter straight into penalties.