What happened, SA?

2015-01-20 00:00

BAFANA Bafana blew a 1-0 lead and missed a penalty in their 2015 Afcon opener against Algeria last night as they slumped to a 3-1 loss in Mongomo. South Africa now face an uphill battle if they are to progress out of Group C and into the knockout stages of the competition.

Thuso Phala had opened the scoring in the 53rd minutes to put Shakes Mashaba’s side ahead before Tokelo Rantie missed his penalty just two minutes later.

A Thulani Hlatshwayo own goal on 67 minutes and then a Faouzi Ghoulam strike five minutes later shattered South African hearts after what had appeared to be the perfect performance up until the blundered spot kick. A glaring error from goalkeeper Darren Keet saw Islam Slimani make it 3-1 with just seven minutes remaining.

It took Bafana a while to settle as the Algerians did all of the pushing in the opening 10 minutes, but once they got their feet on the ball more they began to look comfortable.

Keet was only tested from distance in the opening quarter as Bafana looked to unleash the pace of Rantie up front and find a way in at goal.

It almost came through captain Dean Furman on 23 minutes. Rantie had capitalised on a poor defensive error from the Algerians before laying the ball off for Furman, who was lurking outside the area. South Africa’s midfield workhorse blasted his shot away and had Rais M’bolhi beaten in the Algerian goal, but the ball rattled back off the crossbar as Algeria were lucky to still be level.

There was a moment of concern for Bafana when 18-year-old centre back Rivaldo Coetzee was stretchered off the park on 28 minutes. Siyabonga Nhlapo replaced him in a move that saw Anele Ngcongca move alongside Hlatshwayo in a makeshift SA defence.

It was barely noticeable at first as Bafana finished the half with two golden opportunities to take the lead.

First, a bursting run from fullback Thabo Matlaba down the left flank saw him find Sibusiso Vilkazi in the area. The attacking midfielde had a chance to get his shot away but opted instead for an extra touch that would prove one too many.

And then just a minute later Oupa Manyisa, also from the left, picked out a perfectly timed run into the area from Andile Jali – the playmaker’s effort well blocked by M’Bolhi as Bafana went into the break looking the better side but with nothing to show for it.

As decent as Bafana were in the first 45, they could not have dreamed of the start they had to the second.

Vilakazi combined magically with Rantie before offloading the ball unselfishly to Phala, who rounded off a fluid attacking move to tap in and put Bafana 1-0 up.

Just two minutes later it appeared that Bafana would have all three points in the bag with over half an hour to go. A superb ball from Jali picked out Phala, who found the run of an increasingly influential Vilakazi into the Algerian area. When the Wits man was hacked down by Aissa Mandi, Rantie confidently grabbed the ball to set himself up for the penalty. But his spot kick, though hit with plenty of power, clipped the top of the crossbar and went over for a goal kick.

SA would nearly be made to pay for that immediately afterwards, and a superb double save from Keet denied Slimani as Algeria looked to level matters.

But three goals in the space of 16 minutes sealed South Africa’s fate. First Hlutshwayo headed the ball into his own net as he tried to clear a Yacine Brahimi cross. Then Ghoulam smashed home from an acute angle as Bafana’s defence was found wanting, while the final nail in the coffin came through Slimani – his tame shot somehow creeping underneath Keet.

It was a night that had promised so much. 1-0 up with a penalty in hand turned into a 3-1 loss in the blink of an eye. Bafana now go into Friday night’s clash against Senegal knowing that only victory will suffice.

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