Dull night in Polokwane

2014-10-16 00:00

IN the scrappiest of affairs, Bafana Bafana drew 0-0 with Congo in a 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifier in Polokwane last night.

The dullness of the match was highlighted by one statistic — shots on target, a battle that Congo won 1-0.

News had filtered through of Nigeria’s 3-1 win over Sudan in the earlier kickoff, meaning that Group A had gotten a little tighter as defending champions Nigeria look to recover from a poor start in qualifying.

Last night’s draw, arguably Bafana’s worst performance under coach Shakes Mashaba, means that South Africa remain top of the group with two rounds of qualifying fixtures remaining.

Back in their familiar green and yellow strip, Bafana started the match in front of a Limpopo crowd clearly thrilled to have international football on their doorstep.

But, unfortunately, the quality of the football they witnessed was disappointing. Bafana’s midfield duo of Andile Jali and Dean Furman, so commanding in the qualifying campaign so far, could not get their feet on the ball enough.

As a result, Bafana resorted to long ball attacks in an attempt to break down the Congo defence. But target man Bongani Ndulula was seldom found, and the only time South Africa looked remotely threatening was when Tokelo Rantie used his abundant pace to chase optimistic hacks forward.

Congo arrived with energy aplenty, and were able to get numbers into the South African half regularly. But they also battled to manufacture any goal scoring chances through an inability to play precision passes in the final third.

The first and only real opportunity of the first half fell to the visitors on 36 minutes. Delvin Ndinga climbed above a seemingly non-existent Bafana defence to win a corner — his header drawing a good save out of SA captain Senzo Meyiwa who launched himself to his left. That was the only save either goalkeeper had to make in the match and was as good as it got from a neutral’s perspective in the opening 45.

Both sides would have come out determined to improve in the second half, but it wasn’t to be. Though there was a lot more urgency, again mostly from the visitors, chances remained few and far between.

Mashaba removed Ndulula for the pacier Kermit Erasmus in a bid to inject more venom into his attack, but even that didn’t work.

The Polokwane crowd was given a rare moment of excitement when winger Mandla Masango pulled the trigger from just outside the area, but his shot missed to the right.

Erasmus also had his chance from an acute angle with eight minutes remaining, but he blasted wide of the near post.

With the rain absolutely bucketing down, both sides battled to control the ball and a draw was a true reflection of what was a largely frustrating evening of football for all involved.

• Banyana Banyana drew 1-1 with Ghana last night in their African Women’s Championships clash in Nambia.

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