Rufaro Machingura scored her eighth goal of the tournament as Zimbabwe defeated South Africa 1-0 to lift the 2011 COSAFA Women’s Championship after an entertaining final at the Rufaro Stadium in Harare on Saturday.
South African had won all three previous COSAFA Women’s Championships played, and were favourites again coming into this one, but the hosts held their nerve to win their first regional trophy which they hope will be a platform for even better things to come.
The match was played in front of a capacity crowd and was a fitting end to what has been a highly-successful regional showpiece.
South Africa went close on six minutes when Danai Bhobho cleared Amanda Dlamini's header off the line with the goalkeeper beaten.
Nokuthula Ndhlovu and Rudo Neshamba both had chances for Zimbabwe at the other end, but it was Banyana Baynana who were controlling the game and looking the most likely to score.
Onani Chingawo had to save from point-blank range from Noko Matlou, who had broken through the defence, and then made two further excellent saves to keep her side in the game.
South Africa continued to have the better chances in the second period, but Zimbabwe just about kept them at bay, before the decisive moment in the match came on 83 minutes.
The South African goalkeeper Thokozile Mndaweni failed to connect her punch with a long ball into the box and when the ball was played back in, the competition’s top-scorer Machingura headed home to send the crowd into raptures.
Zimbabwe coach Rosemary Mugadza was delighted with the win, a first-ever for her country over South Africa in the COSAFA Women’s Championship.
“When we started preparing for this tournament, I said to the girls that I wanted to beat South Africa, which was something I never achieved as a player. We have done that now and it is a great achievement,” Mugadza said.
South Africa coach Joseph Mkhonza will be tearing his hair out at the missed chances, but was philosophical in defeat.
“It was a good match, my players did their best, but I want to congratulate Zimbabwe for winning this tournament. Zimbabwe have improved a lot in recent times, and on the day we just could not score,” Mkhonza said.
Earlier, East African guests Tanzania took the bronze medal as they beat Malawi 3-0 in the third-place play-off played earlier in the day.
The Tanzanians raced into a 2-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes. A well-flighted corner by Fatuma Salum was headed home by Asha Rashid, whose effort beat Malawi keeper Thoko Mwase.
Rashid scored a second as she connected with a Mwahamisi Shuruwa cross as Malawi struggled to contain the East Africans.
The game was over as a contest on 34 minutes when the Twiga Stars scored their third, this time it was Shuruwa herself who got on the scoresheet.
There were no further goals in the game and in the end it was a deserved win for the Tanzanians, but Malawi can be proud of their fourth-place finish, their best in the history of the competition.