A draw without shame

2014-09-11 00:00

A SPIRITED Bafana Bafana drew 0-0 with Nigeria in a 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifier at Cape Town Stadium last night. The result means that South Africa still have never beaten the Super Eagles in a competitive match, but the result solidifies the optimism currently surrounding new coach Shakes Mashaba’s squad.

After a roaring rendition of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika from the sizeable crowd, it was go time.

Mashaba had spoken about bringing pride back to the national jersey in the week, and it was evident in the commitment displayed by the home side in the opening stages.

Bafana’s two-goal super-sub from Friday night’s win in Sudan, Sibusiso Vilakazi, was given a start by Mashaba, and it didn’t take long for the attacking midfielder to prove why. His pace and trickery in Nigeria’s half was immediately effective, although he couldn’t get a final pass or shot away when it counted most.

Nigeria were a gear behind Bafana in the opening 20 minutes, before settling, but even then it was the hosts who looked more likely to make something happen. In central midfield, Dean Furman and Andile Jali were physical — coming out on the right side of hard tackles with possession, while their distribution was equally impressive.

At six minutes, a break down the right flank from Mandla Masango saw the Kaizer Chiefs man square the ball into the area. It missed everyone and fell kindly for Oupa Manyisa, whose rifled shot was blocked by a scrambling Nigerian defence.

Ten minutes later and the Orlando Pirates connection between Jali and Manyisa created another good chance. Jali’s ball with the outside of his boot was executed with precision through the centre of the Nigerian defence, but Manyisa couldn’t get a shot away, despite a soft-footed first touch that oozed class.

Bafana remained comfortable on the ball, although they did lose attacking momentum as half-time approached. Nigeria’s only chance of the first stanza came on 36 minutes, when Nosa Igiebor blasted an effort over Senzo Meyiwa’s goal and into the grand stands.

AmaZulu striker Bongani Ndulula, who scored on debut against Sudan, had done a good job of holding the ball up in the first half. But a hamstring strain forced Mashaba to withdraw his target man at the break, and he opted for the more mobile Tokelo Rantie to spearhead his attack.

Despite Rantie’s introduction, the second half was started in a cagier manner. All of a sudden, there were a few nervous moments at the back for Bafana, but they were resolute enough to come out of them unscathed.

Furman grew bigger as the match wore on, and when he won possession yet again in the 61st minute with a crunching tackle, Rantie was played into the Nigerian area. Without any support, the Bournemouth striker’s effort from an acute angle went crashing into the side-netting.

There was nearly heartache for Bafana 10 minutes from time when Nigerian substitute striker Christian Osaguona rose above the defence. His header had Meyiwa beaten, but a heroic clearance off the line from centre back Erick Matoho kept it 0-0.

How Bafana didn’t score in the 84th minute will haunt them for a while. Rantie was one-on-one with Nigerian keeper Austine Ejide, but his shot was well saved. The rebound saw Rantie, Jali, Manyisa and Vilakazi all combining to no effect when a goal seemed certain.

By the end, Nigeria were battered, bruised and left strewn on the turf, while Bafana were energised and sending wave after wave of attack in search of a winner. And that is surely a positive sign for the future.

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