4 June 2012
South Africa’s Bafana Bafana scraped a 1-1 draw against lower-ranked Ethiopia in their first 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifier in Rustenburg, North West province on Sunday, thanks to a last-gasp goal by Katlego Mphela.
Ethiopia are currently 138th in the world rankings, compared to South Africa’s 67th.
A small crowd, including a strong Ethiopian representation, was on hand for the match, and the visitors’ supporters walked away by far the happier group of fans.
Bafana started brightly enough as Anele Ngconga brought a save out of the Ethiopian goalkeeper in the first minute.
There was an early opportunity for the Premier Soccer League’s top goal scorer, Siyabonga Nomvethe, after a defensive error by Ethiopia, but he chose to square the ball rather than shoot when there was no support in the middle.
The home side enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, but the East Africans stood firm and kept most of South Africa’s attempts on goal to shots from distance.
There was a moment of concern for the visitors when a free-kick taken by Mphela was spilled by goalkeeper Sisay Bancha Basa, but he was able to regain control of the ball under pressure from two South African players.
Bafana Bafana were in the driving seat, but found themselves floored by a sucker punch in the 28th minute when the Ethiopians took the lead. Saladin Said dispossessed Tsepo Masilela and let fly with a powerful strike that rattled the underside of the South African crossbar and flashed into the net.
Masilela’s day became even worse just five minutes later when was forced from the field by an injury, with Punch Masenamela replacing him.
Just a minute before the break, Said fired narrowly wide with a powerful shot.
With South Africa behind by a goal at half-time, Mosimane opted to replace midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane with Oupa Manyisa.
Numbers behind the ball
Ethiopia worked hard after the break to get numbers behind the ball on defence, which made Bafana’s attempts to break down their defence more difficult, but they nonetheless managed to create a number of opportunities. However, the finishing was invariably wide of the mark.
Captain Steven Pienaar and Mphela created a good chance 20 minutes into the second half, but the goalie was able to deny Mphela, saving the striker’s header with a out-stretched leg.
Defender Morgan Gould got onto the end of a corner, but headed high of the mark.
At last, in the 77th minute, South Africa managed to equalise. After Mphela picked up a pass on the left, he created a little space and then curled a right-footed shot beautifully around the goalkeeper into the far corner to make it Bafana Bafana 1, Ethiopia 1.
Buoyed by the goal, the home side pushed hard for victory, and only a couple of minutes later Pienaar had a gilt-edged chance to put South Africa ahead when he received a pass from the left. He was right in the middle of the goal box, with plenty of time to finish, but fired miserably wide and high with a side-footed effort.
A long range effort from Manyisa passed high over the bar with just four minutes remaining on the clock as Bafana desperately sought a winner.
Extra five minutes
With regulation time up, an extra five minutes were added and Bafana furiously chased a second goal, but it was not to be.
A free kick in a favourable position was taken by Mphela, but his shot was blocked, while Masanemela came close, but was just wide with another attempt.
The last time Bafana won a game was in August 2011, when they beat Burkina Faso 3-0 in a friendly. The last time they won a competitive match was in March 2011, when they edged Egypt 1-0 in Johannesburg after a last-gasp goal by Katlego Mphela.
Again, it was South Africa’s finishing that left much to be desired. Coach Pitso Mosimane, however, afterwards refused to take the blame.
Talking to Kickoff Magazine, Mosimane said: “How do I sort out the finishing [problem] of South African football? Siyabonga Nomvete is the only one who scored [many goals in the PSL], and I had him in the field. He scored 20 goals and he is here.
“You can’t say this team doesn’t create chances, hey. Let’s play fair! I only have the players for seven days.”
Mosimane blamed South African football’s development programmes, saying: “Whether I am here or not, they will miss the chances. Let’s be shrewd on our development programmes.”
Bafana next face Botswana on 9 June in Gabarone in their second 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifier. It may be that playing away from home will take some pressure off Bafana, but the bottom line is they need to win.
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