JOHANNESBURG, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) — Banyana Banyana made history on Sunday, drawing 1-1 with Ethiopia in Addis Ababa to qualify for the Olympic Games for the first time.
Securing a 4-1 aggregate victory over the Ethiopians in the two-leg tie, the South African women’s soccer team booked their place as one of two African nations at next year’s London Games.
"The joy on the players’ faces is a sign of how much this moment means to them," said Banyana coach Joseph Mkhonza.
Playing in front of over 15 000 fans, Ethiopia took the game to Banyana in the first half.
After a scoreless opening period, however, South Africa struck early in the second stanza.
Nompumelelo Nyandeni crossed the ball from the left-hand side and Ethiopian goalkeeper Liya Shibru Ossa was made to stretch high to collect the ball.
As the keeper fell to the ground, Banyana players protested that the ball had been held over the goal-line.
After consultation with the assistant referee, the goal was awarded as South Africa took a 1-0 lead.
With 12 minutes remaining, Banyana found themselves two players down when striker Noko Matlou, who scored a hat-trick in the first leg, and defender Gabisile Hlumbane received medical attention off the field.
The Ethiopians seized the opportunity and Tibyin Mesfin Tameru fired home a shot from the edge of the penalty box to level the score.
Matlou, who was closely marked and repeatedly tackled on the muddy pitch, was replaced by midfielder Sanah Mollo late in the game.
With South Africa fielding a women’s team against Ghana at the All Africa Games on Sunday, Mkhonza was pleased with the number of players he had to work with ahead of the London Games.
"This is a sign of the depth that has been created in women’s football in SA," he said.