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Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis. Picture: ALEX GRIMM
Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis. Picture: ALEX GRIMM

With many dubbing the penalty that propelled Banyana Banyana to the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Wafcon) final at Zambia’s expense, a “dubious”, coach Desiree Ellis sees no shame in VAR helping them eventually prevail 1-0.

Linda Motlhalo converted the controversial spot-kick in stoppage time to secure Banyana a slot in the final at Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca on Monday. They face hosts Morocco on Saturday at Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat (10pm SA time).

Ethiopian referee Lidya Tafesse Abebe gave Banyana the penalty after play had continued for a few minutes. Jermaine Seoposenwe was the player brought down but Abebe did not award the spot-kick before VAR intervened.

Replays show there was a slight contact, sparking claims Zambia were robbed. 

“I didn’t see it [the incident that led to the penalty] but I knew there was a tackle. We’ve had many VAR decisions going against us. I am not going to say we got a favour because we actually created the clear-cut chances. When you get given a penalty you take the opportunity. That’s what VAR is for,” said Ellis.

Zambia coach Bruce Mwape wasn’t sure if it was really a penalty, highlighting his players were adamant there was no contact. “The only thing I saw was the referee pointing at the penalty spot, which means it was decided by the referee and the cameras [VAR]. According to the players who saw the incident, there was no contact, so we’re not sure,” said Mwape.

Ellis is of the view that their vast experience in this tournament, where they have now reached six finals without a win, set them apart. Ellis also heaped praise on Motlhalo for slotting home the winner, having missed a crucial penalty when SA lost to Nigeria in the final in Ghana in 2018.

“We’re playing similar football as Zambia, but I think our experience of having been in this position before counted for us ... in the critical moments we were better. Zambia didn’t create much but we created a few opportunities. We knew if we kept a clean sheet we were going to get a chance,” said Ellis.

“Linda showed great composure, taking that penalty, having missed a crucial one in the final in 2018. Sometimes these knockout games are like that. We wanted to play the football that we’re known for but we had to grind the victory out because we couldn’t play as we planned. We showed that we can play beautiful football and we can also grind out the results.”

•  Ndebele is in Morocco as a guest of Sasol, Banyana’s sponsor.

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