ZAMBIA claimed a big win over Lesotho and East Africa guest nation Tanzania edged past Zimbabwe on day two of the Cosafa Women's Championship that is being staged in Nelson Mandela Bay.
The Cosafa Women's under-17 Championship also got under way in the Friendly City on Wednesday, with Tanzania claiming success against Comoros in this age-group as well, while hosts South Africa suffered a 2-1 loss at the hands of Zambia.
It is a feast of football of many months idle on the sidelines for the players and the first women's international tournaments to be held on the African continent since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Zambia got their senior campaign off to the perfect start with a comprehensive 8-0 success Lesotho, with Barbra Banda claiming a classy hat-trick on her return to the tournament for the first time since 2017.
Banda will be a key part of the Copper Queens' squad at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year and she showed her value once again as she terrorised the Lesotho defence.
She opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark after Lesotho has held the Zambians at bay, and added two more in the 52nd and 70th minutes.
Zambia only led 1-0 at the break, but added a further seven goals in the second period against the tiring Lesotho defence as they used their strength and pace to get behind the centre-backs. Prisca Chilufya was also on target, while Grace Chanda scored a brace to go with goals from Maylan Mulenga and Ireen Lungu.
Tanzania took the lead on the hour-mark, Kadosho Shekigenda heading home from a corner as the Zimbabwe defence stood static.
The afternoon got worse for the Zimbabweans when captain Emmaculate Msipa received her marching orders for a second yellow card and they had to finish the game with 10 players and 16 minutes still on the clock.
It was the first red card of the tournament and will keep her out of their next fixture.
Meanwhile, Tanzania got their Cosafa Women's u17 Championship campaign off to a strong start as they defeated Comoros Islands 5-1.
Aisha Masaka bagged a brace, including the opener, while Mwanamvua Haruna, Joyce Lema and Protasia Mbunda were also on target. Noussrat Mistoihi had equalised for Comoros from the penalty-spot in the first half.
Zambia defeated South Africa 2-1 in their opener, with Cindy Banda claiming the winner a minute from time as she scrambled the ball into the back of the net.
The home side took the lead just past the hour-mark when substitute Nabeelah Galant squeezed the ball under the Zambia goalkeeper Chitete Munsaka, who might have felt she should do better to keep out the effort.
But the lead lasted just a few minutes as a goal-mouth scramble after the ball had come back off the crossbar was turned home by Taonga Chulu. It was the second time Zambia had hit the woodwork as the home side rode their luck a little.
Thursday is a rest day in both competitions, but the action will resume on Friday as Group A swings back into action. Comoros Islands and Angola both lost their openers and so will be desperate to get among the points to boost their semifinal hopes.
Comoros went down 4-2 to Eswatini, while Angola were beaten 2-0 by South Africa, but promised a stronger performance in their second game. The loser of this contest will have very little chance of advancing.
Defending champions South Africa will want to improve on their showing in the first game, but like all the sides have likely got rid of some of the rust from so long on the sidelines due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Coach Desiree Ellis has won 14 of the 16 games she has taken charge of at the Cosafa Women's Championship since her first in 2017, with the other two drawn, a proud record she will expect to keep.
The games will also return in the Cosafa Women's Under-17 Championship, where Zambia will take on Tanzania and Zimbabwe make their bow at this level against South Africa.
Zimbabwe were missing from the inaugural competition that was played in Mauritius last year.
No fans will be allowed access into the stadiums, but the senior championship matches will be broadcast LIVE on SuperSport's Variety4 in South Africa, and Variety 4 Africa and Go Select 2, as well as being streamed LIVE on www.cosafa.tv The Under-17 games will also be on COSAFA.TV.