Banyana beat Botswana to defend Cosafa title in Port Elizabeth
CAPE TOWN – South Africa's Banyana Banyana wrapped up the 2020 Cosafa Women's Championship with a well-taken 2-1 win in the final over neighbours Botswana at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday afternoon after leading 1-0 at halftime.
The result, coming on the back of a goal in each half, meant Banyana bagged a fourth consecutive championship and a seventh title overall in the Southern African regional championship.
It was Botswana’s first appearance in the final and they will rue missed chances which could easily have changed the outcome of the match.
Botswana suffered a second-minute setback when Banyana scored in a rather fortuitous fashion. Striker Gabriela Salgado reeled in a goalmouth cross which Botswana's defence pushed against the upright, in an effort to clear. The ball evaded the diving Botswana goalkeeper Sedilame Bosija and supreme goalmouth predator Sibulele Holweni pounced to slip the stray ball into the goals (1-0).
The goal moved Holweni to the top of the leading goalscorer's chart, and she will be in line for the tournament's 'Golden Boot' award.
The early goal helped to settle the match which was dominated by Banyana who followed up with a sustained passage of possession football. There were patient build-ups, and Botswana were forced to settle for a defensive role.
Playing on the expansive 2010 World Cup Stadium surface was testing on the players who up to now played all games on the smaller Wolfson Stadium. Botswana would have borne the brunt because they spent a fair bit of time chasing the ball, mostly in midfield positions.
Botswana managed to reverse the flow of the game on occasions, and when scoring opportunities emerged, they opted mainly for long-range efforts. Banyana's central defence also did well with solid first-time tackling around the fringes of their penalty area.
Just past the half-hour mark, Banyana came close to scoring on three occasions, and towards the end of the first half Botswana's rear-guard patiently warded off further danger.
However, Banyana also short-changed themselves since they were often goal shy in the striking zone in the first half in which they enjoyed an overwhelming 75% possession.
When play restarted Banyana went off in search of an 'insurance' goal and twice they took play into the opposition goalmouth, without making an impact.
Once Botswana absorbed this early second-half onslaught they stepped up their intensity and forced two corners in quick succession just ahead of the hour mark. During this phase of play, Banyana seemed to lose the initiative.
Very much against the run play, Banyana went further ahead after a counter-attack in the 65th minute. An innocuous upfield clearance was picked by Hildah Magaia who reeled in a crosskick. The Botswana defence were slow to react and Gabriela Salgado held her nerve to stab the bouncing ball into the goals (2-0).
In remaining play, Banyana came close to scoring a third goal while Botswana kept up the fight, and were rewarded four minutes from the end with a consolation goal by striker Refilwe Tholekele.
But for Botswana, it was a case of too little, too late.