Banyana fall to Korea in opener
Refiloe Jane (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Banyana Banyana put up a fight against South Korea but settled for a 2-0 defeat in their opening Group C match at the Cyprus Women's Cup football tournament in Larnaca on Thursday.
Having lost 2-1 to the same opponents at last year's annual tournament, the speed and skill of the South Koreans proved too much for the South Africans.
Two goals at the beginning of each half was the difference between the two outfits in cold conditions as Joseph Mkhonza's charges allowed their opponents too much space and time on the ball.
Banyana found themselves a goal down following a poor goal kick by stand-in keeper Andile Dlamini.
Dlamini, deputising for Thoko Mndaweni, was given an opportunity in the starting XI, but she produced a disappointing debut, particularly in the first half.
Her goal kick fell straight into the path of dangerous striker Ji Soyun who easily controlled the ball, shrugged off central defender Lebogang Mabatle and fired a low shot past the stranded Dlamini inside the opening 10 minutes of the game.
The South Africans regularly lost possession and failed to close down their opponents, with the midfield duo of Amanda Dlamini and Refiloe Jane struggling to take a firm grip in the middle of the park.
Towards the end of the first half, Banyana slowly clawed their way back into the match, thanks to some neat interplay between winger Mary Ntsweng and veteran striker Noko Matlou, but the latter's effort was well saved by Korean shot stopper Kim Jungmni.
The agile keeper was again tested by interim Banyana captain Janine van Wyk's long-range effort and a low strike from Jermaine Seoposenwe, but on both occasions she brilliantly smothered the attempts.
At the start of the second half, a through ball from the middle found Jeoun Eunha, who had time and plenty of space to beat a poorly devised offside trap, lobbing the ball over Dlamini to stretch her team's lead.
With Dlamini slowly growing in confidence, she pulled off some brilliant saves to make up for her earlier errors, but Banyana will look for a vastly improved performance when they face Ireland in their second match of the tournament on Friday.