The South African national women's football team Banyana Banyana laid the foundation for a workmanlike 4-2 win over Nigeria's much-vaunted Super Falcons with a 3-0 first-half drubbing.
The match was in the final encounter of the Aisha Buhari Invitational Women’s Tournament at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Nigeria, on Tuesday evening.
The outcome was sweet revenge for South Africa, who tasted defeat when they last played Nigeria, nine-time champions of Africa. The occasion was the final of the 2018 Women AFCON in Ghana, where Nigeria relied on a penalty shoot-out to claim the championship.
South Africa's first-half display was a fine advertisement for South African women's football which has come on in leaps and bounds. Recently, football's world governing body FIFA sang South Africa's praises. Three of their bigwigs, FIFA Secretary-General, Fatma Samoura, FIFA Council Member Aisha Johansen and FIFA’s Head of Women Football, Sarah Bareman were among the spectators.
Nigeria threatened soon after the kick-off when they managed a sortie into South Africa's goalmouth but failed to create a scoring chance.
The home crowd was silenced in the sixth minute, when South Africa fortuitously opened the scoring, through an own goal. Nigerian defender Chidi Alozie steered the ball into the net as she tried to clear a cross into the penalty area (1-0).
The gift goal seemed to lift South Africa's play, and Nigeria were forced to settle for a defensive role for a sustained spell. The South African pressure was rewarded in the 17th minute when referee Zouweira Souley of Niger awarded a penalty. Nigerian central defender Onome Ebi was blown up for handball, and midfielder Linda Motlhalo stepped up to score from the 'spot' to give South Africa a commanding 2-0 lead.
Nigeria enjoyed a few half chances but failed to capitalise in the remaining first-half play.
Instead, South Africa increased their lead after terrific footwork by Thembi Kgatlana, who tormented the opposition defence whenever she was in possession. Her parting shot in the 33rd minute was cleared, but the ball ricocheted off the crossbar, and striker Gabriela Salgado ghosted past the packed defence to nod the ball home (3-0).
In the second half, Nigeria set about dismantling the deficit and substitute midfielder Obianujuwan Ikechukwu led the charge.
After only two minutes on the field, she opened Nigeria's score after punishing South Africa's sloppy defence in the penalty box (3-1).
The crowd was hardly back in their seats when Ikechukwu again intervened in great fashion. She unleashed a 35metre pile-driver, which left the South African goalkeeper Kaylin Swart grasping fresh air after the ball dipped under the crossbar (3-2).
Nigeria enjoyed the better of second-half play, but after clawing their way back into the picture with two goals, they were denied further scores after South Africa closed out the match with stout defence.
Substitute Mamello Makhabane crowned South Africa's heroic performance with a penalty after Motlhalo was fouled plumb in front of Nigeria's posts 4-2 a few ahead of the final whistle.