By Sizakele Nkosi
Banyana Banyana last qualified for a major international tournament in 2012 London Olympics, under former coach Joseph “Skheshekheshe” Mkhonza.
Saturday’s game was an opportunity for Banyana to put one foot in the door to qualify for 2016 Rio Olympics but it wasn’t to be.
The South African women’s national team played their first leg match against Equatorial Guinea at Makhulong stadium, in Tembisa- the game ended in a stalemate 0-0.
Both teams had a nervy start however, they both left the game with less action in the opening stages.
In the 23rd minute, Equatorial Guinea got a free-kick on the left side of the pitch and the visitors almost capitalized as Banyana’s defence scrabbled to clear the ball in the 6 yard area.
Equatorial Guinea skipper and now Portland Thorns FC (US) player Genoveva Anonma, gave the South African a tough time with her pace and her ability to read the game very well. A
Anonma is no stranger to South African football as she played for Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies team for 2 years before heading overseas.
South Africa’s Roxanne Barker reminded the visitors why she is Banyana’s number one goalkeeper as she stopped a shot in 38th minute that should’ve been a goal, to keep a clean sheet.
The home team was given an indirect free-kick but the ball hit the arm of the Nzalang Nacional defender. Banyana players appealed for an hand-ball but the appeal fell on deaf ears instead, the Ethiopian referee gave a corner-kick.
South Africa came out of their shell in the closing minutes of the first half- whe n in the 40th minute, Refiloe Jane’s shot at goal beating the keeper but not the crossbar. Coach Miguel Angel Pozanco’s players handled the pressure very well when the home team piled up the pressure.
Coach Vera Pauw, made a substitution immediately after recess -making her intentions very clear that she wanted goals hence substituting defensive midfielder Mamello Makhabane for attacking player, Leandra Smeda.
In the 57th minute of the second half, Jermaine Seoposenwe created a chance for Jane but the unlucky midfielder hit the cross bar again.
A call for what seemed a clear penalty was simply ignored by the referee after South Africa’s forward Seoposenwe was brought down in the box.
The Samford University player Seoposenwe missed a glorious sitter in the 67th minutes that could’ve given Banyana a lead instead, she ballooned the shot. Pozanco’s charges showed tiredness due to the heat and defender Cristina Martins was stretched off the pitched and got substituted for Carolina Martins Pereira.
Mamelodi Sundowns forward Rhoda Mulaudzi came on for her club teammate Sanah Mollo in the 80th minute all in a bid to supply more pace and hopefully to score that elusive goal for Banyana Banayana.
After Banyana Banyana huffed and puffed, the scoreline remained unchanged to the disappointment of the home crowd.
South Africa failed to convert their chances thus, they’ll have to make the dreaded trip to Bata- where the Super Falcons of Nigeria succumebed to a limp loss; exiting the Rio 2016 Olympics qualifiers.
The second leg will be played on Sunday the 18t of October in Equitorial Guinea.