Cape Town – Banyana Banyana left the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium without a medal after they suffered a 4-3 penalty shoot-out defeat against Zambia in the Cosafa Cup Women's Championship bronze medal match on Saturday.
The penalty shoot-out finally separated the two teams after the 1-all stalemate at the end of regulation time.
The match marked the first time that Banyana Banyana participated in a third-place play-off. Since the inception of the event in 2002, Banyana Banyana has played in every final.
Banyana Banyana turned on the pressure from the opening minute, and the Zambian defence conceded two corners, which they dealt without much bother.
In the ensuing minutes, there were some delightful touches from Banyana Banyana, who seemed to have found their niche with a short passing game. They managed several sorties deep into the Zambian half but were turned away on the fringes of the opposition goalmouth.
Mandisa Faya, making her Banyana Banyana debut in left midfield, looked solid in a defensive role after Zambia staged an early counter-attack down the right flank.
Despite the prevailing strong wind, the players sensibly played the ball on the ground, and after 10 minutes, Zambia started reversing the flow of the game. Several of their front-runners went toe-to-toe with Banyana Banyana defenders, but although they threatened, they needed support to lend a much-needed finishing touch.
Just ahead of the first-half midway mark, the two goalkeepers Kaylin Swart (Banyana Banyana) and Catherine Musonda (Zambia) had brought off excellent saves, but that all changed in the 21st minute when Zambia were awarded a corner.
Patricia Lampi's corner landed plumb in the middle of the Banyana Banyana penalty box, and Swart moved off her line to gather. She missed completely, and Ochumba Lubandji out jumped the defence to head into the empty goals (1-0).
With this goal, Lubandji joined Banyana Banyana midfielder Sibulele Holweni at the top of the leading goalscorers list with four goals each.
Moments later, Elizabeth Mupeso, who was doing an excellent job in a holding midfielder's role for Zambia, came close to scoring after firing a powerful drive from the D-shaped area outside the Banyana Banyana penalty area.
After Zambia held out for a 1-0 halftime lead, they returned for second-half play and continued to hold the upper hand.
As play wound towards the hour mark, Zambia's high press posed problems for Banyana Banyana's defence, who desperately held out to avoid further score.
Banyana Banyana staged a few counter-attacks, but none were telling enough to leave its mark. The best scoring effort for Banyana Banyana came in the 67th minute from substitute Gabriela Salgado who left her marker for dead before unleashing a shot from 25m out. Her effort was turned away for a corner.
Salgado's introduction added some spark to Banyana Banyana's attacks. She justified the faith in her with a well-struck free-kick into the Zambian penalty box, in the 76th minute. The ball spilt clear after Musonda and her supporting defence failed to gain control, and unmarked Holweni was handily placed to score (1-0).
With this equaliser, Holweni returned to the top of the leading goalscorers list with five goals and will be in the running for the Golden Boot award.
Two minutes from the end, Swart made a fine save to ensure the contest would be decided by the dreaded penalty shoot-out.