JOHANNESBURG – Banyana Banyana recorded their fourth Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Championship title, as they beat Zimbabwe 2-1 in the final of the 2017 edition of the showpiece competition, at the Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, on Sunday afternoon.
The experienced Leandra Smeda was the star of the show for the South Africans in setting up the first goal before grabbing the winner in the 91st minute from a pass from Chantelle Esau.
The South Africans, who have represented Africa at the past two Olympic Games opened the scoring in the first minute of referee’s optional time at the end of the first half when Thembi Kgatlana latched onto a pass from Smeda, before out-sprinting her marker to score.
Zimbabwe took the game to the South Africans in the second half and seemed to have sent the match in the direction of a penalty shootout, when Rutendo Mokore headed home from a corner late in the second half, giving Banyana Banyana goalkeeper Andile Dlamini no chance of making a save. The strike was Mokore’s 10th goal of the tournament.
Zimbabwean goalkeeper Chido Dringirai kept her team in the match on several occasions, pulling off several superb saves to keep the Banyana attackers at bay.
The win allows Banyana interim coach Desiree Ellis to experience victory as a coach and player, having been part of the side when South Africa beat Zimbabwe 2-1 to lift the title back in 2002. The triumph comes at an important time in Ellis’ coaching career as SAFA are on the brink of announcing the full-time coach that will lead Banyana through to the 2020 Olympics.
Central defender Bambanani Mbane deservedly collected the ‘Player of the Match’ award, for her efforts in being a tower of strength in the Banyana rear-guard. Former SA goal-getter Noko Matlou, who these days plays a key role in the South African defence, made several timely tackles during the match.
For many of the Banyana players, the victory was sweet revenge for the disappointment of 2011, when Zimbabwe beat the South Africans 1-0 in the final of the tournament played in Harare.