Despite referee Daniel Bennett hogging the limelight for all the wrong reasons after a shocking evening at Mbombela Stadium on Wednesday, PSL representatives in the Africa Cup of Nations have done the league proud, writes Timothy Molobi in Durban.
The first round of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) threw up a number of top-class performances from local and foreign players plying their trade in the Premier Soccer League (PSL).
The pick of the crop are the Bafana Bafana duo of No?1 goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and defender-turned-“striker” Siyabonga Sangweni. The two caught our eyes in their 2-2 draw against Morocco at the packed Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban last Sunday.
Sangweni is the PSL player topping the scoring charts – with two goals – in the Afcon tournament after the first round of matches.
But another gem Bafana head coach Gordon Igesund found was the mobile right-winger Thuso Phala of Platinum Stars.
Phala has not put a foot wrong in all three Group A matches and literally terrorised defenders with his lightening pace and silky skills.
Defending Afcon champions Zambia bombed out at the first hurdle. But their No?1 goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, who plays for Free State Stars, tried almost single-handedly to keep the out-of-sorts Chipolopolo in the competition.
But even his heroics – saving a penalty against Ethiopia and then showing his team-mates how to score a penalty when he netted from the spot in the 1-1 draw against Nigeria – could not save Zambia from the embarrassment of going home early.
It was a classic situation of Zambia going from hero to zero.
Orlando Pirates striker Collins Mbesuma shone in the 1-1 draw against Ethiopia where he netted a trademark goal.
But that was not enough either to give the Zambians a win. Instead, they settled for a disappointing draw in the opening Group C match against a 10-man Ethiopia and never recovered.
The two club coaches – Roger de Sa of Pirates and Stars’ Steve Komphela – would be happy to see the two stars returning early and back to training ahead of the restart of the Absa Premiership next week.
Although they did not see the tournament through, two other Zambian internationals, Davies Nkausu and Joseph Musonda, would be back with their respective clubs – SuperSport United and Golden Arrows.
However, Komphela would have been delighted with Dove Wome, who scored in Togo’s victory over Algeria.
He was a late substitute for his captain, Emmanuel Adebayo, and his showing in the group stages helped Togo qualify for the quarterfinals for the first time in their Afcon history.
Niger, who were also knocked out in the first round, had Chippa United goalkeeper Kassaly Daouda as their No?1.
Daouda had mixed fortunes as he let in a soft goal against Mali in their opening Group B match, which they lost 1-0, but he performed better against the Democratic Republic of Congo and was eventually helpless when Ghana walloped them 3-0.
They travelled back home with a single point.
But then Bennett took all the sunshinewhen he had one of the most shocking refereeing stints in a match between Tunisia and Togo.
Bennett was quick to go on social network Twitter after he got almost all of his decisions wrong on the night.