Magnificent seven for Banyana BanyanaThomas Kwenaite
It is not done and dusted yet, but it is safe to say that Banyana Banyana took a significant step closer to qualifying for the knockout stage of the African Women Cup of Nations when they handed Equatorial Guinea a 7-1 beating at the Cape Coast in Ghana on Wednesday evening.
Following a 5-0 pasting at the hands of Zambia in their opening match, Equatorial Guinea, who came into the tournament by default after they had initially been kicked out due to fielding an ineligible player (Annette Jacky Messomo) against Kenya during the qualifiers, has been eliminated after suffering a second loss and conceding 12 goals in the process.
The victory elevated the South Africans to the summit of Group B with six points after two rounds with eight goals scored and one conceded, but it is not over yet as they still have a date with Zambia in Accra on Saturday and have to at least grab a point out of that game before they can be assured of a place in the semi-finals.
Yet the manner in which they dispatched of Equatorial Guinea left a smile as broad as the Congo River on the face of coach Desiree Ellis, who made three changes to the side that defeated Nigeria in the opening match three days previously and started the game with Thembi Kgatlana, who came off the bench to score the lone goal against Nigeria.
Kgatlana was to be destroyer-in-chief of the red shirted brigade as she wreaked havoc with her skill and pace, resulting in the unfortunate Dorine Chuigoue handling the ball under pressure and Tunisian referee Dorsaf Ganouati pointing to the dreaded spot without hesitation, a penalty that was sweetly tucked away by Linda Motlhalo.
Two minutes later, Kgatlana outstripped the defence and displayed her unselfishness when she laid on for Mpumi Nyandeni when everybody else expected her to claim the glory, and the veteran Nyandeni sliced the ball beyond the dicing goalkeeper for the second.
Miscommunication between Leandra Smeda and goalkeeper Kaylin Swart allowed Equatorial Guinea’s Elana Obono Oyana with the easiest opportunity to reduce the deficit when she toe-poked the ball into an empty net, a wake-up call to the South Africans that it was not over.
However, Ellis introduced the elegant Refiloe Jane in the second half and she benefited from unselfish play from Kgatlana, who ran the defence rugged and again laid on for Jane to finish and then it became the Kgatlana show, as she scored the fourth and fifth in quick succession and identical fashion, rounding the goalkeeper to score on both occasions.
It was all over bar the shouting when Amanda Mthandi added the sixth and before the fat lady could deliver her ditty, Jermaine Seoposenwe who also had a storming game as an attacking midfielder, made it magnificent seven with another simple finish.
It might have looked easy and Zambia looked out of sorts against Nigeria, but Ellis need to psyche up her troops that the Shepolopolo will throw caution to the wind and give it their all, knowing that defeat would send them packing back to Lusaka on Saturday and therefore they need to tighten things up.