All to play for in second leg of Banyana vs DRC Olympic qualifier following stalemate
On a sweltering Thursday afternoon in Kinshasa, Banyana Banyana and the Democratic Republic of Congo drew one-all to set up an intriguing second-leg clash as both sides eye the next round of Olympic Games qualification.
The South African camp is remaining calm despite being held to a 1-1 draw by the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, 25 October. The match was part of the African qualifiers for next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.
Banyana Banyana – the reigning African champions – were made to sweat profusely during the second-round qualification fixture, by the boiling heat at the Martyrs Stadium and a resolute DRC team.
The home side took the game to the visiting South Africans from the first minute, creating the bulk of scoring chances. They found goalkeeper Kaylin Swart ready to thwart them at every turn.
That is until Grâce Mfwamba latched onto a great cross from the left-hand side, controlled with her chest, and left makeshift left-back Wendy Shongwe spinning like a top before blasting an excellent volley past Swart on the brink of halftime.
The visitors returned as a much-improved side in the second stanza. It showed when captain Thembi Kgatlana finally found the back of the net after a couple of missed opportunities and half-chances. She finished from close range following a cross from super-sub Nicole Michael in the 48th minute.
Despite some chances for both sides to break the deadlock, the second half did not produce any more goals and the match ended on level terms.
All to play for
Though South Africa were the favourites to come away with a win, the Congolese, buoyed by home support, were never going to just roll over for the African champions.
Nevertheless, Banyana, who are also missing key players for the two matches for various reasons, fancy their odds in the reverse fixture on Monday.
Players such as Nomvula Kgoale, Tiisetso Makhubela and Bambanani Mbane are injured. Bongeka Gamede is writing exams. Instrumental attacker Jermaine Seoposenwe will only join the team for the second leg.
Influential midfielder Linda Motlhalo was on the bench in Kinshasa. But the Scotland-based playmaker joined her teammates too late to play any meaningful part in the first leg. So too Blackburn Rovers defender Nokuthula Faith.
“We got an away goal. But it could have been more than one. We had a couple of chances to put the game to bed. So, it’s all still to play for in the second game. We had one training session. So, I’m really proud of the players for the way they performed,” said Banyana coach Desiree Ellis after the game.
Certainly, if Banyana were unaware just how menacing the Congolese could be on the pitch, they are fully aware now. There is no room for error. Lest they suffer the same fate that befell them at this very stage of Olympic qualification back in 2019.
In that year, as they aimed to reach their third Olympics in a row, they were felled by Botswana, losing 3-2 on penalties. This time they will look to avoid that embarrassment and advance to the third of four qualification rounds.
“We know it’s going to be another difficult game back in South Africa. We can play better than how we did [in the first leg]… We have to be at our absolute best [in the second leg]. Make sure that we are much more organised in all departments,” 60-year-old Ellis said.
“The pressure is still on us. We are always going to go into games as African champions. Everyone wants to beat Banyana Banyana. On the day, we just need to step up and show why we are superior. Because they will come with a lot of pressure in the second leg. But we have enough quality in our team to get over that hurdle,” goalkeeper Swart added.
Tickets for the second leg are free and can be collected at Orlando Stadium, where the second game will be played on Monday, 30 October. Kick-off is at 4pm. DM