Boys fall to Super Eagles

2013-08-15 00:00


NIGERIA 2 (0) (Nwafor 48’, 68’)

A TOOTHLESS display saw Bafana Bafana outmuscled and outplayed in a 2-0 loss to the Super Eagles of Nigeria in last night’s Nelson Mandela Challenge at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

Two second half goals from substitute Uche Nwafor were enough to seal Bafana’s fate on an evening when many thought that the “Madiba Factor” might have the power to elicit an inspired performance from the South Africans.

Bafana coach Gordon Igesund fielded a relatively predictable starting line-up in front of a modest Durban crowd. Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Dean Furman were paired together in central midfield, while Thabo Nthethe and Eric Matoho were chosen to marshal the defence.

It was a nervy start from the hosts against the African Cup of Nations champions, and miscommunication between Igesund’s centre back pairing almost allowed Nigeria in after just 10 minutes, but captain Itumeleng Khune was quick off his line to thwart the attack.

While Bafana had every intent to move the ball forward at pace, they were seldom able to work their attacks into the area during the first half and resorted to long shots through the likes of striker Bernard Parker, with even left back Tsepo Masilela having an ambitious dip from range.

The defensive work from the men in yellow and green was impressive early on. Furman and Letsholonyane led the way in terms of closing down space, and the rest of the South African side kept their shape as Nigeria also battled to create any clear chances.

But the second quarter of the match saw more chances for both sides. On 26 minutes, the visitors nearly took the lead when a beautifully placed left-footed effort from John Ogu beat Khune but not the woodwork.

While Nigeria had most of the ball, it was Bafana who began looking dangerous on the counterattack with Tokelo Rantie and Parker breaking forward on a couple of occasions. On 42 minutes Rantie had an effort from an acute angle go narrowly wide, but Bafana’s big chance came on the stroke of half time.

Some good work from Siphiwe Tshabalala on the left flank saw the ball squared to Letsholonyane, who had time to take a touch from just inside the area, but his powerful effort was blocked by the swarming Nigerian defence.

Bafana started brightly after the break creating a good chance through Rantie, but the optimism was short-lived as substitute Nwafor put the Nigerians 1-0 up just three minutes into the second period. After Bafana failed to clear their lines, the ball dropped to the man who had replaced Shola Ameobi up front, and Nwafor was a picture of composure as he back-heeled the ball past a helpless Khune.

Bafana did not respond well to the goal, and spent the next 15 minutes chasing leather as the crowd grew increasingly frustrated. Phala was withdrawn on the hour mark to hand Luyolo Nomandela his first international cap, and the Free State Stars man initially looked lively down the right hand flank, setting up Letsholonyane for another good chance on 65 minutes, but the shot went high and over the crossbar.

But just two minutes later the nail was in the coffin as Nigeria carved open the South African defence from the right hand side allowing Nwafor his second of the night through the easiest of tap-ins.

Igesund brought on his old Moroka Swallows favourite Lerato Chabangu for Letsholonyane, but by that stage the game was well over as a contest.

The midfielder would have a shot from distance go narrowly over before Parker curled a free kick agonisingly close to the top right corner, but as close as those efforts were Bafana were still unable to get a shot on target in the second half.

The squad will now make the trip to Soweto where they take on Burkina Faso in another international friendly on Saturday, at the Mandela festival on the same day as the Boks take on Argentina.

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