AWCON 2018: South Africa surprise tournament favourites Nigeria

Nigeria’s bid to claim their ninth Africa Women’s Cup of Nations title got off to a bad start after they were shocked by South Africa in Cape Coast on Sunday.

Kgalana’s moment of brilliance late on settled Group B’s opening game in Banyana Banyana’s favour.

The Super Falcons struggled to get a foothold in the game, failing to get a single shot on target all evening — and were particularly poor in the second half.

Though the South Africans called goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi into action four times, they were not exactly brilliant.

The Nigerians, though disjointed for most of the game, should have gone into the break with a lead. Desiree Ellis’ ladies endured two big first-half scares. The first saw Asisat Oshoala latch onto Rasheedat Ajibade’s nice pass, race clear before sending a pass across the face of goal, only for a well-timed clearance to prevent the ball from reaching Desire Oparanozie, who had closed in for the kill. Moments later, the no.8 latched on to yet another Ajibade exquisite pass — this time the pass did get to Oparanozie, but the striker fired over the crossbar from close range.

Emerging from the tunnel with renewed vigor, South Africa pressed high, and went close twice within minutes. Jane Refiloe pleaded for a penalty and Linda Mothlhalo’s thigh deflected Ester Lebohang’s cross just wide.

Thomas Dennerby’s side did show some improvement after Ngozi Okobi and Anam Imo came on, but they still couldn’t get things right in the final third.

Banyana Banyana, meanwhile, resorted to picking Nigeria on the couner-attack — and that paid off, with substitute Kgatlana volleying home in the 84th minute to give the Ellis’ team their second ever win over the eight-time champions•

Mfoniso Williams