Banyana Banyana outplayed by Zimbabwe

Banyana Banyana crashed to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of a new-look Zimbabwe in the annual Unity Cup at the Rufaro Stadium on Thursday.

Goals by Rudo Neshamba, Rutendo Makore and Kudakwashe Basopo consigned Banyana Banyana to one of their heaviest defeats in a roller coaster 2011 season. All goals came in a pulsating second half.

US-based goalkeeper Roxanne Barker got 45 minutes of match time, brought on for regular number one Thoko Mndaweni. But the talented goal-minder had hardly put on her gloves before Rudo Neshamba made up for a horrendous first half miss on an open goal.

Three minutes into the second half, the Zimbabwean striker turned Banyana Banyana left back Nothando Vilakazi inside out before firing home a thunderous shot that flew past a despairing Barker to send the 20 000-odd crowd into a party mood.

As Banyana searched for the equaliser, they were caught on a counter-attack when Makore took full advantage of some poor South African defending to score from just inside the penalty area, shooting wide of Barker 10 minutes before full-time.

Barker brilliantly kept the scoreline to 2-0, by pulling off a full length “tip-over-the-crossbar” save from Erina Jeke, whose bullet-like shot was heading for the top right corner of the Banyana Banyana goal-net.

But she could not stop Basopo from putting the final nail in the coffin when she blasted a loose ball into the back of the net to send the boisterous crowd into a frenzy.

The defeat took Banyana Banyana’s 2011 matches statistics to 13 wins, one draw and three losses in 17 outings, a year into the coaching stint of head coach Joseph Mkhonza.

The re-shuffled Banyana Banyana defensive quartet was severely tested throughout the first half of the match. Debutant Zamandosi Cele—included at centre back for the unavailable Janine van Wyk—Simphiwe Masina, Amanda Sister and Vilakazi, were some of the busiest players on the artificial playing surface at the Rufaro Stadium.

US-based midfielder Kylie Ann Louw showed great determination on the right hand side of the South African midfield, where she combined well with striker Sanah Mollo.

Mollo, who plays her football for Sasol League (Free State) side Bloemfontein Celtic, has been used mainly in a midfield role when called to the national squad, but her well educated right foot caused many an anxious moment for the home team’s defence.

Both teams went into the half-time interval ruing missed chances with Banyana Banyana super striker Noko Matlou uncharacteristically blasting the ball over the Zimbabwean cross bar with only home team goalkeeper Onai Chingawo to beat.

Chingawo was lucky to finish the match, after referee Pamela Chiwaye failed to produce a red card against her seven minutes before half-time. The goalkeeper ran over 30 metres into open field to challenge Matlou’s run towards goal and clearly used a hand on the ball to halt the South African attack. Chiwaye gave the free kick in favour of the visitors, but did not take action against the goalkeeper.—Sapa

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