Defending champions South Africa and Eswatini claimed victories on the opening day of the 2020 COSAFA Women’s Championship that is currently being staged in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Hosts South Africa beat Angola 2-0 in a tough, physical encounter, while Eswatini rallied from two goals down to claim a 4-2 success over Comoros Islands.
It was a successful start to a competition that is being played behind closed doors, and is the first international women’s tournament on the African continent since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
South Africa had to work hard for their opener against a resolute Angola defence, their numerous forays towards the visitors’ box held at bay by the powerful defenders.
The breakthrough did finally come on 39 minutes though as a cross from the right was turned into the net by 18-year-old Lonathemba Mhlongo, whose deft touch was needed to take it away from Angola goalkeeper Rita.
Mhlongo later had a header cleared off the line, but it was 2-0 just past the hour-mark as a raking cross to the back post was bundled over the line by substitute Karabo Dlamini, with some help from the post.
Comoros were denied a first-ever COSAFA Women’s Championship victory when they let a 2-0 lead slip to lose 4-2 to Eswatini, who played with the wind in their backs in the second period and overwhelmed their opponents.
Playmaker Abdourahmane Hairyat put Comoros ahead with a super strike from all of 30-yards, the ball sailing into the corner of the net with the Eswatini goalkeeper well beaten.
That was the way it stayed until halftime, and when Comoros doubled their advantage early in the second period, they looked odds-on for the win. The 17-year-old Anllaouia Hadhirami Ali showed strength to hold off the defender and shoot low underneath the keeper.
But from then on in it was all Eswatini. Phumzile Dlamini pulled a goal back from a free-kick, before Tenanile Ngcamphalala beat the Comoros goalkeeper at her near post with a low shot.
The game turned completely on 75 minutes when Mokgale Nonjabuliso fired home to break Comoros hearts, with Dlamini getting her second late on.
Comoros will be disappointed to have let their lead slip, but it was still a vastly improved performance from last year when they conceded 35 goals in three games.
The action continues on Wednesday when last year’s finalists Zambia begin their Group B campaign against Lesotho (kick-off 12h30).
Zambia, who have qualified for the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, came close to lifting the trophy last year and will be desperate to go one better, as well as show their continued improvement.
The second game of the day sees the return of Zimbabwe as they take on East African guest nation Tanzania (kick-off 15h30).
Zimbabwe did not participate last year, but were 2011 champions and the only team other than South Africa to so far lift the trophy.
Wednesday will also see the start of the 2020 COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship that will also be played in Nelson Mandela Bay.
The second edition of the competition is to be played among five sides, with the tournament opener between Comoros and Tanzania (kick-off 12h30).
South Africa and Zambia will contest the second match (kick-off 15h30), with Zimbabwe the other side in the competition.
12h30 (10h30 GMT) – Zambia vs Lesotho – Wolfson Stadium
15h30 (13h30 GMT) – Zimbabwe vs Tanzania – Wolfson Stadium
No fans will be allowed access into the stadiums, but the senior championship matches will be broadcast LIVE on SuperSport’s Variety4 in South Africa, and Variety 4 Africa and Go Select 2, as well as being streamed LIVE on www.cosafa.tv. The Under-17 games will also be on COSAFA.TV.