Winning start for Bafana

2009-01-27 00:00

BAFANA Bafana got 2009 off to a winning start as a locally-based team beat their Zambian counterparts 1-0 in a friendly international at the Super Stadium in Atteridgeville last night.

Teko Modise’s 54th-minute free-kick separated the two sides, though the scoreline could have been greater had the South Africans taken their first-half chances.

Bafana stroked the ball around and retained possession with ease against outclassed opponents.

The southern African rivalry between the teams is such that Zambia are always useful candidates when South Africa need a friendly against game opposition, but the shadow Chipolopolo offered scant resistance to mixed-strength Bafana’s passing game.

As a build-up exercise to the 2009 Confederations Cup, South Africa coach Joel Santana would have found a few answers to questions about his fringe players, while being pleased to begin the year with his fifth win in a row. Now Bafana must step up the intensity in their remaining friendlies against South American and European opposition ahead of the June 14 Confed kickoff.

“I saw one or two players who played very well tonight, and the game was good preparation for our friendly against Chile [in Polokwane on February 11]," Santana said.

Like South Africa, Zambia fielded a number of Premier Soccer League-based players, including Mamelodi Sundowns striker Collins Mbesuma, SuperSport United midfielder Noah Chivuta and Free State Stars goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.

The announcement yesterday by the SA Football Association that full international caps would be awarded for what was originally put down as a practice match raised the stakes and created a more serious environment for the game to be played in.

The good form of a number of the locally-based players in an exciting and competitive PSL season might have been part of the reason a decent crowd turned out despite the absence of Bafana’s overseas-based stars.

Among the candidates for a Confed Cup place, Santana gave a start to the SuperSport United central defensive duo of Bongani Khumalo and Morgan Gould. Orlando Pirates’ Lucas Thwala was at left-back, while Moroka Swallows’ Lefa Tsutsulapa partnered Kagisho Dikgacoi in defensive midfield.

Up-front, Mabhudi Khenyeza earned his second cap and could have scored a first-half hat-trick had he taken his chances. The on-form Ajax Cape Town striker has transformed himself into a good finisher since his move from Kaizer Chiefs in the off-season, but old habits crept in last night in the national team jersey.

South Africa were on the ascendancy from the start and engineered a number of clear openings with some skilful play.

Bafana were unlucky not to open the scoring in the 19th minute, as Mweene punched Siphiwe Tshabalala’s cross on to Khenyeza, and the ball bounced just wide of an open goal. Then the Ajax striker got ahead of the Zambian goalkeeper to Thwala’s cross, the header again just off the mark.

Khenyeza had his best chance when he was fed the ball in front of goal by Tshabalala, and blasted over from eight metres. With seven minutes until the break, captain Modise finally got an attempt on target, his header from Tshabalala’s cross forcing a reflex save from Mweene.

Bafana took the lead in the 54th minute, Modise’s free-kick finding the gap in a poorly-arranged defensive wall to leave Mweene stranded.

Within minutes Chivuta’s well-struck free-kick was kept out by a fingertip save by Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune. While continuing to dominate, South Africa only manufactured half-chances until the whistle.

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