South Africa’s Banyana Banyana on Saturday defeated hosts Atlas Lionesses of Morocco 2-1 in the final match of the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) in Rabat.
The win helped them to their first title success in the tournament’s history, after Hildah Magaia scored twice within eight minutes in the second half after the hour mark.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that this ended a run of five finals without success for Banyana Banyana, who completed this tournament with a 100 per cent record.
This was after they secured qualification to next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup finals in Australia and New Zealand.
Magaia tapped in an excellent cutback from Jermaine Seoposenwe, who ran onto a long ball out of defence.
It helped her to create the opening goal as she held off the defence to provide an expert pass in the 63rd minute.
It took the sting out of a frenzied atmosphere created by a sell-out crowd at the Prince Moulay Abdallah Stadium.
This was the venue where only weeks earlier South Africa’s men had lost to Morocco in a 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier.
Magaia then doubled the lead in the 71st minute with another close finish, this time from a cross out wide from Karabo Dhlamini which Morocco’s defence failed to cut out.
But a lapse in concentration saw South Africa lose possession.
It offered Morocco hope of a comeback as Rosella Ayane pulled one back in the 80th minute after being set up by Fatima Tagnaout.
This meant an anxious last 10 minutes for Desiree Ellis’ team —- plus another nine minutes of referee’s time added on —- before they could get their hands on the trophy.
The game started with a high tempo, fueled by the large crowd who greeted every Moroccan touch with a cheer and Banyana move with a chorus of whistles.
After 11 minutes, there was a muted shout for a penalty kick, but while Tagnaout’s challenge on Magaia in her own penalty area was risky, it proved expertly timed.
Both sides pressed high to allow little space for chances and, as a result, the first 30 minutes went by without any goalscoring opportunity.
South Africa had a chance with a long-range free-kick in the 32nd minute which Nomvula Kgoale hit onto the roof of the net.
Three minutes later Seoposenwe played through an inch-perfect pass for Magaia, but her left-footed effort was blocked by a brave save by home goalkeeper Khadija Er-Rmichi.
Magaia had another chance with a free-kick five minutes before the break.
But she was unable to properly bend the ball and was well off target with what looked like a good opportunity.
Morocco had their first real effort a minute later for tall English-born striker Ayane, who tried to rag the ball from behind her and was unable to find the target.
The second half was a close affair until Magaia opened scoring, suddenly offering the occasion a rip-roaring finale.