Three giant screens in the middle of this stadium, that light it up with the Cameroon flag and the logo of the Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWC), were switched off after the first match that involved the hosts. Only two screens, behind each goal, remained active – adding some light while also informing the fans of the score and keeping time. Goalkeeper Andile Dlamini was the third and consistent light that shone from those posts, on the left side in the first half and the right in the second half.
The 24-year-old raised her hand to show that she deserves to don the No. 1 jersey regularly. She only started because Roxanne Barker only arrives here from Netherlands on Saturday. If this performance is anything to go by, Barker could spend most of her time in this tournament deputising for Dlamini. The Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies’ ‘keeper started jittery in her first appearance in the AWC having played second fiddle in the last two editions she was involved in. She grew in confidence as the match progressed, producing a number of saves to stop the threat that comes from Rutendo Makore's powerful shots.
Dlamini was brave when she came out of her line. It was important that she timed herself well because Banyana pinned the Mighty Warriors into their own half. Zimbabwe required counter attacks to break free from those shackles which forced them to play long balls behind Banyana’s defence. That type of football didn’t do Zimbabwe any favours in winning over the local crowd that stayed behind.
That crowd had quickly chosen who they were backing between these two nations that are grouped with Cameroon. They cheered for Banyana just before the start of the match, blowing babazelas – the bastard child of the vuvuzela that is now synonymous with South Africa. The babazelas sound like a sheep being killed, making the vuvuzela sound like a piece you would hear in an orchestra. Two voices, one belonging to Banyana’s kit-manager Aletta Ngidi, held their own in the stands with their ululating and singing.
Those voices grew louder after the introduction of Jermaine Seoposenwe for Shiwe Nogwanya after the hour mark. The USA-based forward started on the bench because she had one training session after a 24-hour flight that saw her arrive here two days before this match. She brought more exuberance in a side built on a strong attack. Nogwanya led that attack at first, with Thembi Kgatlana playing just behind her. But for all the trouble they put Zimbabwe under, they struggled to make it count with goals. Only one flank, the left, created most of Banyana’s chances which weren't finished.
Interim coach Desiree Ellis needs to balance the team a bit better if they are to go far in this tournament. The attack-minded Leandra Smeda, who has been converted to rightback, was shy to do what she has been doing for the most part of her Banyana career – offering the side width with her runs up the right flank. But she did a good job in her defensive play.
Banyana will need her to continue doing that to nullify the threat of Aboudi Onguene Gabrielle who tormented Egypt on the flanks when the hosts won their opening match 2-0. The immediate target for Banyana though must be to sharpen their attack because if they don’t quickly recover, they could regret the countless chances they missed last night should goal difference be a factor to separate teams.
*Njabulo Ngidi is in Cameroon courtesy of Sasol
Original source: Dlamini stars as Banyana, Zim draw