Linda Motlhalo of South Africa challenges Bartonova Eva of Czech Republic during the 2019 Cyprus Cup yesterday at Antonis Papado Stadium. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – It is going to be tough at the World Cup and Banyana Banyana should consider themselves lucky to have learnt this lesson with some time before they head to France.

This second defeat in the Cyprus Women’s Cup will no doubt give Desiree Ellis and her technical team as well as the national senior women’s team serious food for thought as they anticipate their maiden appearance at the global soccer showpiece in June.

For one, they would have learnt the importance of being able to play the game under any circumstance, Banyana’s defeat yesterday coming largely because they struggled to deal with the heavy underfoot conditions due to the rain that fell on the Antonis Papadopoulus Stadium pitch from just after the hour mark.

And then there is that glaring South African football problem of not being able to kill off a match that Ellis will have to find a way around if her team is to make a mark in their inaugural World Cip appearance.

Yesterday, Banyana scored first and got the extra advantage of seeing their opposition reduced to nine outfield players thanks to a red card.

At international level, such advantages cannot be allowed to go to waste. But that is exactly what Banyana did and they were duly punished for it.

Banyana played purposeful, attacking football and were asking questions of the opposition’s defence early on.

It was on the quarter-hour mark when Linda Motlhalo laid on a pass to Makhabane who had acres of space to use the possession fruitfully. Instead she blasted the ball wide of the goal.

But she made amends soon thereafter as she slotted home the opening goal on 17 minutes, again having been set up by Motlhalo.

Typically, it was the Czechs who saw more of the ball after going down but Banyana held their own against very physical opponents.

The pendulum appeared to swing Banyana’s way on 40 minutes when a Czech player’s bad tackle on Refiloe Jane was punished with a sending off.

A goal up and now one player to the good, it was time for Banyana to push home the advantage and get that win which would see them finish in the top two in the group.

But that was not the case and with the match going into the recess with just the one goal difference, the Czechs remained hopeful.

They piled on the pressure after the break as they looked to restore parity and almost achieved that objective on 57 minutes but their attempt rattled the crossbar, with the rebound being sent wide.

There was a special moment for Banyana’s Thembi Kgatlana as she made her way on to the pitch to earn her 50th cap as a replacement for Amanda Mthandi.

This though did very little to inspire the South Africans to push for that second goal and as it was the Czechs nearly equalised on the hour mark when goalkeeper Andile Dlamini failed to control a backpass.

Almost thereafter the heavens opened up, much to the delight of the Europeans who took full control of the game as Banyana struggled to cope in the wet conditions.

The match detteriorated into a slip slide affair on the waterlogged pitch but the Czechs still fashioned some chances and the ball hit the crossbar following a good header with Dlamini well beaten on 75 minutes.

It was not a case of holding on for dear life for Banyana but even with their numerical advantage they just could not handle the onslaught.

The Czechs got their equaliser on 81 minutes and stole the winner a minute from time to break Banyana hearts.


South Africa (1) 1

Czech Republic (0) 2


The Star

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