Spanish connection help Banyana Banyana see off Zambia
JOHANNESBURG - Banyana Banyana didn’t need a chunk of their overseas-based players to thump Zambia 3-1 in an international friendly at the Bidvest Stadium yesterday afternoon, given that the connection of SD Eibar duo Thembi Kgatlana and Noko Matlou was enough.
This win was a welcomed boost for South Africa after the men's senior national team failed to qualify for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon,. Bafana Bafana fell at the final hurdle of the qualifiers away to Sudan to finish third in Group C.
Banyana will miss out on this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games after their qualifying campaign was halted by neighbours Botswana. But they haven’t felt sorry for themselves, inviting Tokyo-bound Zambia and Botswana to two international friendlies.
These friendlies are set to signal the commencement of Banyana’s preparations for the Cosafa Championship tournament and the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon) qualifiers later this year.
Coach Desiree Ellis, though, was without most of her overseas-based players due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, with the Spanish-based trio Kgatlana, Matlou and Amanda Mthandi, who plays for CD Badajoz, the only players who were released by their clubs.
Banyana’s golden girl Kgatlana led the attacking contingent. Her impressive exploits from club level for SD Eibar were visible from the outset, creating Banyana’s first opportunity with a telling ball across the face of Copper Queens’ goalmouth.
Robyn Moodlay, however, was late in terms of intercepting the ball to fire home. Soon afterwards, Kgatlana came close to registering her own after a lovely lobbed through ball from Sibulele Holweni, but Zambia goalkeeper Esther Banda made a timed interception.
But, out of nowhere, the Copper Queens were ahead in style. Unmarked down the right flank, their captain Barbra Banda hit a diagonal volley that sailed into the top corner, beating Andile Dlamini in goals.
Banyana, though, continued to pile on the pressure for an equaliser. Mamello Makhabane saw her long-range shot fly inches away from the face of goal, while Gabriela Salgado saw her shot from a set-piece shave the roof of the net.
Veteran Banyana footballer Matlou, though, rolled back the years to her days as a deadly striker. The 35-year-old defender, unmarked, rose the highest in the box to head home a well-executed corner-kick from the ever-green Salgado.
From that point the Spanish connection from the grounds of Eibar burst to life in Braamfontein. Kgatlana’s footwork inside the box saw her eliminate her markers before feeding Matlou, who easily guided the ball past an onrushing Banda.
On the stroke of halftime, Kgatlana should have registered her own goal after beating two Copper Queens’ defenders for pace, after a high-ball from the engine room. But the 2018 Caf Women’s Footballer of the Year put her effort wide.
Kgatlana, though, wouldn’t be denied her goal back in the Banyana shirt after Banda totally miskicked the ball, allowing the Eibar striker to have the easiest of tap-ins early in the second stanza – Zambia starting to fade away from the rear-view mirror.
Kgatlana came close to registering her brace after ratting the edge of the upright from close-range. And that’s how it ended, with Ellis’ troops taking a huge motivation ahead of their clash against Botswana in this venue on Tuesday.