Luckless SA rue missed chances

2009-09-09 00:00

IT might partly have been down to the luck of the Irish, but mostly it was Bafana Bafana’s inability to create enough clearcut chances, and take the ones that did come their way, that saw them somewhat unfortunate 1-0 losers in a friendly in Limerick last night.

South Africa enjoyed a glut of possession and territorial advantage, but could not convert that into the crucial goals needed to avoid a sixth straight defeat. Even their Irish hosts would surely admit that a 1-1 draw would have been a fairer result, but for that Bafana needed to score.

South Africa had 11 shots on goal, but only one was on target.

An Irish starting line-up with just 98 caps between them might have been understrength, with coach Giovanni Trapattoni resting players such as Robbie Keane and Damien Duff, who came on as a 78th-minute substitute. But Bafana’s key injuries to Macbeth Sibaya, Matthew Booth and Teko Modise were also not to be sniffed at.

To rub salt into the visitors’ wounds, the Irish goal came the only way it seemed likely on a night when the South Africans had almost all the play.

After being almost the only team on the park in the first half, Bafana conceded a free-kick 25 metres out and Stoke City right-wing Liam Lawrence’s 37th-minute curled beauty left diving goalkeeper, Rowen Fernandez, with no chance.

Coach Joel Santana and his staff will be correct in their assessment that last night’s friendly, and the 2-0 defeat to fourth-ranked Germany on Saturday, were important only to build experience, with the results counting for little.

But secretly they would have hoped for a little more, especially from last night’s game, because six straight defeats, albeit against some of the world’s best teams, cannot be good for morale.

Showing their intent early on, it took Bafana just 13 seconds to earn their first corner and from it defender Morgan Gould shot well over the bar.

The South Africans moved the ball around with industrious precision in the first 20 minutes, and one such move saw the ball worked via the omnipresent Steven Pienaar to Katlego Mphela just inside the area, whose snapshot was also high.

More pressure resulted in a free-kick four metres outside the Irish area and Pienaar’s shot came a lot closer.

South Africa continued to look dangerous without managing a killer pass. Then Ireland gave their visitors a lesson in taking chances with Lawrence’s opportunist free-kick.

A minute into first-half injury time Tsepo Masilela shot into the side-netting when the left-back would have done better to square to Elrio van Heerden, who was free in the area.

Bafana were lucky to keep the scoreline to 1-0 when, 15 minutes into the second half, Leon Best’s effort was parried by Fernandez and, with the challenges desperately flying in, Lawrence’s shot from the rebound was deflected just wide.

The South Africans regained control, but with most of their play down the middle, ran into a wall of green around the Irish area.

Despite being a goal down, Santana continued adding fringe players in the second half, including a debut for Ajax Cape Town’s Clifford Ngobeni.

A late long-range free-kick from another substitute, Lucas Thwala, came close, but again did not test Ireland ’keeper Kevin Westwood.

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