Banyana Banyana lost their opening 2013 Group C Cyprus Cup match 2-0 to South Korea but the gallant Sasol-sponsored warriors were far from being disgraced. The match took place at the Ammacostos stadium in Cyprus.
Having lost 2-1 to the same opponents last year and coming into the tournament highly confident that they would avenge the defeat against the Asians girls, it proved not to be as the speed and skill of the Koreans proved too much for Banyana.
Two goals at the beginning of each half was the difference between the two sides in the freezing city of Larnaca as Joseph Mkhonza’s charges allowed their opponents too much space and time on the ball while coming off second best in midfield.
The African Women championship runners up found themselves a goal down following a terribly-taken goal kick by stand in goalkeeper Andile Dlamini.
Dlamini, deputising for Thoko Mndaweni, was given an opportunity to keep goals for the first time at a tournament with Banyana but lacking in confidence, she would not have been happy with her debut.
Her awful goal kick fell straight onto the path of dangerous Korean striker Ji Soyun who easily controlled the ball, shrugged off central defender Lebogang Mabatle before firing a low shot past the stranded Dlamini to make it 1-0 inside the opening 10 minutes of the game. That was the terrible start for Banyana as it set the tone for the rest of the game.
They easily lost possession and failed to close down their opponents and they paid a heavy price against the tactically astute Koreans. The midfield duo of Amanda Dlamini and Refiloe Jane didn’t make matters any easier as they struggled to have a firm grip in the middle of the park.
Towards the end of the first half, Mkhonza's charges slowly got back into the match, thanks to some neat interplay between winger Mary Ntsweng and Noko Matlou but the latter’s effort was well saved by Korean goalie Kim Jungmni. The agile keeper was to be tested later again by interim captain Janine van Wyk’s long range effort and Jermaine Seoposenwe’s low strike but on both occasions she brilliantly smothered the two efforts.
At the start of the second half, a through ball from the middle found Jeoun Eunha, who had time and acres of space to beat a poorly devised offside trap to lob the ball over Dlamini to make the score 2-0 and shut the match as a contest.
Despite an outstanding performance by Van Wyk, the two defensive mistakes were to prove the difference between the two sides. As the match went on and with Dlamini slowly growing in confidence, she pulled off some brilliant saves to make up for her earlier errors to keep the score at a respectable 2-0.
Banyana Banyana will have to vastly improve when they face Northern Ireland in their second match of the tournament on Friday, 7 March.
In the evening kickoff after the SA and Korea game, fellow Group C opponents and neighbours Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland were set to face each other.