Banyana coach pleased with her charges despite 3-0 defeat to the US
Teenager Holweni impresses in debut for SA
Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis says she was pleased with the overall performance of her side despite a 3-0 loss to the US on Sunday in their final warm-up fixture ahead of the Fifa Women’s World Cup in France.
The US are favourites to retain the World Cup crown‚ but were made to labour for the win against a Banyana outfit missing three of their top stars in Thembi Kgatlana‚ Linda Motlhalo and Leandra Smeda.
The home side took until the 37th minute to open the scoring through Samantha Mewis‚ and then added two more later on via Mewis and Carli Lloyd.
Banyana had a few opportunities on the counterattack‚ including one for impressive teenage debutant Sibulele Holweni‚ but did not work the US goalkeeper hard enough.
“In the first half we did very well‚ especially our organisation and structure was perfect‚” Ellis said. “There were no lines to play through and when they did play through‚ our cover was good.
“The only thing is that when we won the ball‚ our decision-making could have been more effective. We could have rotated the ball more‚ but we rushed it and just kicked it away.
“We conceded twice late‚ but I felt we were very organised. We know the quality the US have‚ we knew it would be a test. They had practically their best players on the pitch at that time.”
Despite an impressive performance against a team packed with full-time professionals‚ Ellis knows her side were the architects of their own downfall to some extent.
“We were unfortunate with the [first] goal‚ giving it away right in front, and we often speak about how when we win the ball [in defence] we must play big‚” she said.
“We didn’t, and it got intercepted‚ and then it was in the back of the net.
“The two goals we conceded in the final 15 minutes could also have been avoided — not tracking back a player and not being tighter in the box.
“We always pride ourselves on being defensively organised and today we were superb. When we play these top teams we need to minimise our mistakes. I thought at times we panicked and gave the ball away.”
Ellis was impressed with 18-year-old Holweni‚ who could make a surprise late run for a World Cup place.
“Sibulele‚ what a debut‚ she almost scored a goal and never looked flustered in any way. She is another youngster coming through. She looked good on the ball and challenged well.”
The result means Banyana are now winless in their last nine internationals heading to the World Cup‚ where they face Spain (June 8)‚ China (June 13) and Germany (June 17) in a difficult pool.
But Ellis is not panicking and says they will gain much from the clash with the US.
“It’s not the result we wanted‚ but we are very happy‚” she says.