Banyana Banyana went down 1-0 to hosts Equatorial Guinea in wet conditions in the opening match of the Confederation of African Football’s African Women’s Championship on Sunday, in front of 15 000 red-clad home fans at the Malabo Stadium.
Rain throughout the day turned the Malabo stadium pitch into a mud-bath and the hosts adjusted well to enjoy the better of the chances in the first half.
The hosts took the lead in the 38th minute when striker Gloria Chinasa rose high in the Banyana Banyana penalty area to collect a cross from the right and head wide of goalkeeper Thoko Mndaweni and into the South African net.
Midfielder Refiloe Jane stood out for Banyana Banyana, playing her heart out in tackling and winning possession in a bid to supply quality opportunities to strikers Portia Modise and Andisiwe Mgcoyi.
Early in the second half, the match was marred by University of Johannesburg star Noko Matlou being fouled and taken to hospital with a suspected neck injury. She was replaced by Cape Town Roses’ attacker Jermaine Seoposenwe, who had few opportunities on the ball in the wet conditions.
Seoposenwe was in the thick of the action with eight minutes to go when she took on two defenders and powered her way into the Equatorial Guinea penalty area, but the muddy conditions proved to be an extra defender and she slipped before she could get a shot away.
Pillar of strength
Left-back defender Nothando Vilakazi was a pillar of strength in the Banyana Banyana rearguard, while striker Portia Modise always looked for work on attack.
In the latter stages, a promising attack initiated by the experienced Portia Modise, who switched play cleverly for striker Silindile Ngubane to raid down the right flank, went unrewarded.
Equatorial Guinea beat South Africa 3-1 in the semi-finals of the 2010 African Women’s Championship in South Africa. In 2008, as hosts, they were crowned African champions after a 2-1 victory over Banyana Banyana in the final.
In Sunday’s other Group A clash, the Democratic Republic of Congo scored a 1-0 victory over Senegal.
Banyana Banyana will face Senegal in Malabo on 31 October, and will travel to Bata for their final group encounter with Democratic Republic of Congo on 3 November.
The semi-finals will take place in either Malabo or Bata on 7 November, with the third and fourth place playoff and the title decider both scheduled for Malabo on 11 November.