14 October 2013
Bafana shared an entertaining and encouraging 1-1 draw with Morocco in a match to celebrate the opening of the new Agadir Stadium in Agadir City, Morocco on Friday evening.
The result leaves South Africa still unbeaten against Morocco. In five games between the two countries, the Rainbow Nation has won twice and drawn three times.
In the lead-up to the match, coach Gordon Igesund had declared that is was the beginning of a new era, and he was as good as his word, handing three youngsters – Kgosi Ntlhe, Ayanda Patosi and Sibusiso Vilakazi – their debuts, while also featuring Siyana Xulu, Bongani Zungu and Dalyon Claasen, who are also all 23 years-of-age or younger.
“I said before we left South Africa that winning is important, but so is blooding in the youngsters. I was prepared to send them in at the risk of losing the match, but we never looked like losing. It is all work in progress,” Igesund told the South African Football Association (Safa) after the match.
‘A great mix’
“It was a great mix of experienced players guiding the youngsters, but we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves because we still have a long way to go, and I told the players to keep their feet firmly on the ground because it is only one match.
“There is no player too young to play in my squad and no player too old to feature either. If these players continue like this, imagine how they will be in a year or so,” he enthused.
“The older players still have a huge role to play and will keep playing until such time the youngsters can stand on their own.”
It was an encouraging performance from Bafana Bafana, who didn’t let the loud home crowd get to them and took the game to the Atlas Lions. Their intent was rewarded early when Tokelo Rantie netted in the ninth minute to take the wind out of the home supporters’ sails.
Rantie, who had already forced Moroccan goalkeeper Mohammed Amsif into a save, ran onto a well-weighted through ball from Claasen, who enjoyed a strong outing. The pass split the defence, allowing Rantie to race at goalkeeper Amsif before beating him from the left of the box.
Buoyed by the goal, Bafana confidently moved the ball about the park, but Morocco sounded a warning when Younes Belhanda drew a good save out of South African captain Itumeleng Khune and shortly after that the home side’s skipper Mehdi Benatia tested Khune again.
Lerato Chabangu was denied by Amsif before Omar El Kaddouri blasted a shot into the side-netting of the South African goal after a strong run.
Four minutes from the break, South Africa almost doubled their lead. Bernard Parker sent Vilakazi clear with a through ball and only a superb stop by Amsif prevented the Atlas Lions from falling into a deep hole.
Shortly after the restart they were back on level terms when Ed Adoua got onto the end of a Belhandia free-kick to beat Khune.
With the crowd back in the game, the home team pushed hard for a winner, but South Africa were determined to deny them. Morocco controlled possession, but Bafana Bafana resolutely repelled their efforts to turn possession into goals.
Substitute Abel Taarabt drew a save out of Khune, but Morocco couldn’t fashion a decent opening and the game finished in an exciting draw.
“I think it was a great friendly to play and get a feel of Morocco,” Igesund declared after the contest.
‘We won over their supporters’
“We won over their supporters with our first half performance. The second half was okay, but substitutions slowed the game down, and we lost a bit of shape.
“Some of my youngsters were a little bit nervous, but it was a good performance overall. We were unlucky not to go two up. Patosi didn’t disappoint, but was nervous just like Ntlhe.”
Summing up his charges’ performance, Igesund added: “They were very surprised with our play. They didn’t expect us to come at them like that and we were unfortunate not to get away with a victory. I must admit though it was a good equaliser from Morocco, and I cannot complain about their goal which was well taken.”