Banyana Banyana staged the greatest comeback against a strong and determined Zambia side to book their spot in the final of the 2017 COSAFA Women’s Championship currently underway in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Down 3-0 in the 75th minute, the South Africans scored three quick goals to leave the scores level at 3-3 at the end of the regulation 90 minutes, and force the match to a penalty shootout where they emerged victorious 5-3 and set up a repeat of the 2011 final where they lost to the hosts, Zimbabwe.
Things looked bad for the Sasol-sponsored when Barba Banda scored the opening goal for Shepolopolo in the 21st minute before increasing their lead on the stroke of halftime through Grace Chanda.
Zambia grabbed their third in the 73rdminute and it appeared the match was over as a contest.
Just six minutes into the second stanza, Shepolopolo was awarded a penalty after the referee adjudged defender Noko Matlou to have fouled Chanda.
But there was relief for Banyana Banyana when Rhoda Chileshe stepped up and ballooned her spot kick over the crossbar.
With their never-say-die spirit, the South Africans clawed their way back into the game with 77th minute goal from Leandra Smeda whose header was powerful for Hazel Nali to stop.
Three minutes later Thembi Kgatlana, who was a handful for the Zambia defence, was fouled and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Smeda made no mistake to reduce the deficit to 3-2 with her second of the day.
With six minute remaining on the clock, Kgatlana left her markers for dead and her cross found second half substitute Rhoda Mulaudzi who had an easy tap in to take the match to a penalty shootout, Smeda, Bambanani Mbane, Matlou, Nompumelelo Nyandeni (who had also come on in the second half), as well as Lebohang Ramalepe converted their spot kicks to send the South African bench into a frenzy.
Rachael Zulu, Grace Zulu and Lweendo Chisamu all scored for Zambia, while Ester Mukwasa missed her spot kick.
Shortly before the final whistle, interim head coach Desiree Ellis had brought on goalkeeper Andile Dlamini in preparation for the penalty shootout.
In the end, Banyana Banyana triumphed 5-3 on penalties following a 3-3 stalemate after regulation time.
With the victory, South Africa will now face Zimbabwe in the final.
This is Banyana Banyana’s fifth straight final in the tournament – they won in 2002, 2006, and 2008 but came second in 2011 where they lost to Zimbabwe.
This is how they lined up:
Banyana Banyana starting 11 vs Zambia:
Roxanne Barker (GK) (Andile Dlamini), Lebohang Ramalepe, Nothando Vilakazi, Noko Matlou, Bambanani Mbane, Kholosa Biyana, Koketso Tlailane (Rhoda Mulaudzi), Refiloe Jane (C), Leandra Smeda, Thembi Kgatlana, Chantelle Esau (Nompumelelo Nyandeni)
Andile Dlamini, (GK), Yolula Tsawe (GK), Regina Mogolola, Zanele Nhlapo, Nwabisa Kolisi, Nkoikoi Mabina, Rachel Sebati, Nompumelelo Nyandeni, Rhoda Mulaudzi