Igesund’s gamble pays off

2013-01-24 00:00

YOU could almost hear an entire nation breathe a sigh of relief when Siyabonga Sangweni’s blasted volley put Bafana Bafana ahead in the 30th minute against Angola at the Moses Mabhida stadium, to set up a crucial 2-0 Africa Cup of Nations Group A victory for his side last night.

The victory means that Bafana’s hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals of the competition are now very much alive.

Coach Gordon Igesund fielded an attacking side with no less than five changes from the one that drew 0-0 to Cape Verde in the tournament opener. Tsepo Masilela, Katlego Mphela, May Mahlangu, Dean Furman and Tokelo Rantie all forced their way into the lineup, while Kagisho Dikgacoi (injured), Thabo Nthethe, Lehlohonoho Majoro, Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Siphiwe Tshabalala were all left out.

It was a bold move from Igesund to leave out crowd favourites Letsholonyane and Tshabalala, but it didn’t take long for Bafana to prove that it was the right one in a first half that was quite simply electric.

Dean Furman almost immediately made himself the darling of Durban with some fantastic work in holding midfield, where he won challenges and retained position for Bafana — something so simple yet so clearly missing in their first match.

May Mahlangu was industrious in his own right, playing just in front of Furman, and his skill and pace combined with Furman’s strength and energy worked a treat for Bafana in the middle of the park.

Mphela, too, showed his worth as a calming influence for Bafana up front — involved in most of the chances created by the home side.

In the 23rd a quite sublime piece of buildup play from Bafana saw them work the ball right into the Angolan area, and when Mphela set up Rantie, Moses Mabhida thought that their long wait for a goal would be over. But the 22-year-old got underneath his effort after a period of play that made it seem like Bafana were a naturally free-scoring side.

But when Angola failed to decisively clear a Thuso Phala freekick with half-an-hour gone, it was centreback Sangweni who sent the stadium rocking when he volleyed the ball home with the ease of a seasoned striker.

At half time Igesund replaced Mahlangu, who had covered more distance than anybody else on the park, with the more defensive minded Letsholonyane.

But Angola refused to lie down and came out a stronger side in the second half, creating a few chances of their own. They came closest when Bafana shot stopper Itumeleng Khune was forced into a fine reflex save from midfielder Costa Mateus.

As the visitors pushed on it became clear that Bafana would need a second goal to ease the tension.

Igesund brought on Majoro for Rantie, and in the 62nd minute the move paid off. With Bafana on a counterattack, Letsholonyane expertly picked out Majoro, who showed sublime individual skill to keep the ball in play before slotting it home through Mamona’s legs.

“Every single player on that pitch stood up to be counted today,” Igesund said after the match. “We took a gamble … Today was a must win and the boys did superbly.”

Bafana will now turn their attention to Sunday’s clash against Morocco, also to be played in Durban.

In the other Group A match late yesterday, substitute Youssef El Arabi spared Morocco blushes with a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw against minnows Cape Verde.

Spain-based El Arabi finished off an Abdelaziz Barrada cross to cancel out the lead Platini gave the tiny island state 35 minutes into the first half with a chip over goalkeeper Nadir Lamyaghri.

GROUP A STANDINGS

P W D L GF GA GD Pts

South Africa 2 1 1 0 2 0 2 4

Cape Verde Islands 2 0 2 0 1 1 0 2

Morocco 2 0 2 0 1 1 0 2

Angola 2 0 1 1 0 2 -2 1

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