South Africa secured a 2-1 victory over Nigeria in their opening match in the 2022 Africa Women's Cup of Nations Group C game on Monday evening.
Two second half goals from Jermaine Seoposenwe and Hildah Magaia inspired Banyana Banyana to a win over the Super Falcons who netted a late consolation goal through Rasheedat Ajibade at Stade Moulay Hassan in Morocco. South Africa will be hoping to go all the way and clinch their maiden Wafcon title in the North African country.
The match billed as the final before the final saw Spain-based attackers Asisat Oshoala and Kgatlana going head to head in this blockbuster clash. Atletico Madrid attacker Kgatlana led the South Africa attack as Banyana looked to start their Group C campaign with a win, with Refiloe Jane captaining the Southern African giants with Janine van Wyk being named among the substitutes.
Oshoala spearheaded the Super Falcons attack having enjoyed a successful season with Barcelona and she was hoping to carry her club form into the continental tournament. England-based defender Ashleigh Plumptre started in the left-back position as the West African giants looked to avenge their 4-2 defeat to South Africa in the Aisha Buhari Cup in Nigeria in September last year.
South Africa did most of the attacking in the opening exchanges and they won several corner-kicks which were cleared away by the Super Falcons with ease. The Nigerians were also able to contain the lively Kgatlana and her strike-partner Seoposenwe who was looking to make late runs into the opposition's box.
Nigeria were happy to play on the counterattack with Toni Payne and Ifeoma Onumonu keen to use their blistering speed in the wide areas to cut open the South African defence. The nine-time African champions also attempted to play through balls for Oshoala, but the experienced Noko Matlou and her defence did well to cut out passes and crosses from Super Falcons and neutralise the dangerous Nigerian attacker in the process.
The two teams cancelled each other out in the middle of the park with the half-time break approaching with neither goalkeeper being seriously tested in the first half as most of the shots missed the target and the score was 0-0 at the interval in Rabat.
The Super Falcons attacked in numbers after the restart, but they left gaps in behind their defence and they were punished by their opponents. Noxolo Cesane ran onto a long ball before setting up Seoposenwe who beat goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi from close range to hand South Africa a 1-0 lead in the 63rd minute with what was Banyana's first shot on target.
Desiree Ellis' charges were brimming with confidence after taking the lead and their combination play in their opponents' half was impressive. South Africa doubled their lead in the 65th minute when Jane played a lovely defence-splitting pass for Magaia who made no mistake as she fired past on rushing Oluehi to make it 2-0 to Banyana much to the dismay of coach Randy Waldrum and his technical team.
Waldrum reacted by introducing an attack-minded duo of Francisca Ordega and Uchenna Kanu with the Super Falcons looking to grab at least two late goals to ensure that the match ended in a draw. Kanu did make an impact as she set up Ajibade who found herself unmarked inside the opposition's box and the 22-year-old attacker scored in stoppage time but Banyana claimed a 2-1 win.
The victory saw South Africa get off to a winning start in the continental tournament and they will now face Burundi on Thursday. On the other hand, Nigeria will be determined to return to winning ways when they take on Botswana on the same day.