A 90TH minute winner by South Africa’s Leandra Smeda saw Banyana Banyana clinching the Cosafa Women Championships title at Barbourfields Stadium, beating defending champions and hosts Zimbabwe.
BY FORTUNE MBELE
After Rutendo Makore had cancelled out Chrestina Kgatlana’s 45th minute goal, with her 10th goal of the tournament in the 75th minute, the match looked as if it was heading to extra-time.
However, Smeda popped up with a late winner, to silence a vociferous Barbourfields, which was rooting for a home side win, as South Africa reclaimed the trophy that they lost to the same opponents in 2011, the last time the championship was held.
Mighty Warriors coach, Sithethelelwe Sibanda said: “It was a great game. We started off shaky, but came back stronger in the second half. We need to get our players involved in these international matches to improve their mental strength.”
Banyana Banyana coach, Desiree Ellis said: “Zimbabwe played with a lot of fear in the first half and we capitalised on that. It was a fantastic game.”
Kgatlana put Banyana Banyana ahead a minute into first half optional time, receiving a ball from a counter-attack and outpacing the Mighty Warriors defence of Nobuhle Majika and Lynette Mutokuto to power home past Dzingirai.
Makore restored parity in the 73rd minute with a beautiful header off a Sheila Makoto cross from the left, sending the packed Barbourfields into frenzy.
But Smeda silenced the crowd with the winner after Chantelle Esau dribbled past Majika on the left and sent in the cross that the striker nodded home.
South Africa’s win meant Zimbabwe failed to defend their title, which they won beating the same side by the same scoreline at Rufaro Stadium in 2011.
The South Africans could have scored more as the first half belonged to them, but good defensive work paid off for the Mighty Warriors, with Mutokuto and Majika standing their ground on many an occasion.
Makore got the top goalscorer award for her 10 goals, while goalkeeper Chido Dzingirai was voted goalkeeper of the tournament.
Kgatlana was the player of the tournament.
Zimbabwe: C Dzingirai, L Mutokuto, S Makoto, N Majika, B Kabwe, T Mandaza, P Mupeti, M Nyaumwe, E Chibanda (D Kaitano 65’)s, R Makore, D Bhobho
South Africa: A Dlamini, L Ramalepe, N Vilakazi, N Matlou, C Esau, C Kgatlana, B Mbane, K Biyana, R Jane, L Smeda, R Mlaudzi (N Nyandeni 87’)