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Banyana and Sweden play out gripping draw

South Africa made four changes from the starting XI that suffered a 2-1 loss to the Netherlands, one enforced, as captain Janine van Wyk sat out through a groin injury.

Banyana Banyana vs Swedan at the Cape Town Stadium on 22 January 2019. Picture: @SasolLeague/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - The macth between Banyana Banyana and Sweden might have ended goalless in the Albertina Sisulu Centenary Challenge but the 5,500 fans at the Cape Town Stadium were treated to an entertaining contest.

South Africa made four changes from the starting XI that suffered a 2-1 loss to the Netherlands, one enforced, as captain Janine van Wyk sat out through a groin injury.

Refiloe Jane captained the side in her absence from central midfield - she was on the flank in their previous fixture.

The visitors had the first chance of the game after 15 minutes, with Stina Blackstenius forcing Andile Dlamini into a fine save.

Banyana pressed the Swedes aggressively from the outset and showed promise going forward but they never tested Swedish keeper Jonna Andersson.

Once again, African Player of the Year Thembi Kgatlana showed attacking menace, troubling Sweden with her pace and often getting behind the defence but her final ball was missing.

There was a crucial moment just before the break when Kgatlana looked to be through on goal but was adjudged to be offside, although it seemed the striker was on.

The second half was a very watchable 45 minutes of football as both sides were visibly going after the opening goal and it made for an enjoyable spectacle for the home crowd despite the eventual lack of goals.

Some of Banyana’s highlights going forward include Refiloe Jane going just wide of the upright as it seemed the keeper Andersson was scrambling.

Kgatlana again had a menacing run towards goal and hit a lovely shot just at the edge of the box which was well saved.

Thereafter, attacker Linda Motlhalo hit a cracking volley but was wide of the far post with the clock at 75 minutes.

The Swedes also had very good opportunities themselves. Andile Dlamini made the first save of the second half by getting low to smother a shot from Julia Zigiotti.

Also, Hanna Glas’ delivered a pinpoint cross but it was headed wide by the unmarked substitute Madelen Janogy.

Glas tried to get a goal by herself and unleashed a devilish shot from the edge of the box which had Dlamini beaten but it rattled the crossbar.

Banyana had the final chance of the match in second-half stoppage time, as substitute Jermaine Seoposenwe shaved the side netting with a free-kick leaving the friendly 0-0.

South Africa has a very good set of fixtures as they prepare for the World Cup. They take part in the Cyprus Cup in late February where they meet Finland, North Korea and the Czech Republic with a friendly against United State also on the cards.

Banyana coach Des Ellis said they had figured our areas to exploit the Swedes.

“We also knew that they struggle with pace, so we changed it a bit. We went with two quickies up front and that put them under a lot of pressure. I thought we started very well compared to the match with the Netherlands; we were a lot more composed, a lot more on the ball and putting the captain in the middle also helped us stabilise.”

Ellis bemoaned the lack of a cutting edge in front of goal: “The final pass at times was a bit rushed, and I still need to look at that one incident. I’m not sure if it was offside with Thembi. And if we were a little bit composed in front of goal then we would have a lot more shots on target. But we were very happy, not just with the performance, but the fitness level.”

Ellis gave a summary after their two high profile matches: “We stood up really well, we gave as good as they gave. It’s so easy we could have won that game but I am very proud of the whole group… there is that one area that we need to work on and that is our finishing.”

The Banyana coach believes conditioning had been the biggest difference from last year: “We were very happy, not just with the performance but the fitness level. Our last game was in October, so the girls have really worked hard over these last couple of weeks on their own and in groups. But preparation is key and this is a good start for us.”

(Edited by Mihlali Ntsabo)

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