Substitute Thembi Kgatlana’s sublime finish earned Banyana Banyana a shock 1-0 win over champions Super Falcons in their 2018 African Women’s Cup of Nations Group B opener in Cape Coast, Ghana on Sunday.
It was the second time the South Africans would triumph over their Nigerian counterparts after 11 games.
Coming just a day after both sides men’s teams had pulled off a 1-1 draw in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Johannesburg, the Falcons were the favourites to continue their dominance over their opponents.
But it was not the case as the eight-time champions put up a mediocre performance and failed to dominate play at the Cape Coast stadium. Swede coach Thomas Dnnerby watched helplessly as his players barely managed to string passes together, failed to create chances and even when they did, were far and wide.
Mamello Makhabane had the chance to break the deadlock for Desiree Ellis’ ladies two minutes before the half hour mark with a strike from outside the box that sailed wide.
Four minutes later, Desire Oparanozie had a wonderful opportunity to find the breakthrough for the Falcons after going through in the box unmarked, but she fired her strike over.
South Africa came out firing against the Falcons just after the break, but they lacked the final pass in the last third.
Jermaine Seoposenwe came close to breaking the deadlock for Banyana in the 53rd minute with a ricocheted effort that sailed just wide of the bottom corner.
Ellis’ ladies were losing their stranglehold on the Falcons after 65 minutes as the latter were slowing down the tempo of the match by making tactical substitutions.
But it was an unlikely effort from Kgatlana, who came on as a 57th-minute substitute for Busisiwe Ndimeni, that separated both sides eventually.
Jermaine Seoposenwe pounced on a loose ball just inside the Falcons’ half and then delivered an inch-perfect chip that bounced right into a flying Kgatlana’s path on the right-hand side of the box.
Having made a superb run to brush off her marker, Kgatlana let rip immediately with a thunderous volley from a difficult angle, and the ball curled away from Falcons goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi to send the South African fans at the near-empty stadium into excitement.
And they held on to a historic win over their more illustrious opponents, to put their Group B chances of qualification alive.
Group B proved to be tricky as a young Zambia side hammered two-time champions Equatorial Guinea 5-0.
The Copper Queens totally out-classed the Equatoguineans. who looked unprepared following their late entry after winning an appeal.