15 January 2014
Group A leaders South Africa and second-placed Mali played to a 1-1 draw in the African Nations Championship (Chan) at Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday evening, leaving the path to the quarterfinals of the tournament far from decided.
It was an even clash, with Mali shading possession 52% to 48% and South Africa edging the shots on goal 16 to 14. In the end, though, the Eagles appeared to be happier with the result. They face Mozambique in their final group encounter, while Bafana Bafana take on Nigeria.
Coach Gordon Igesund made four changes to the South African line-up from the team that beat Mozambique 3-1 on Saturday, bringing in Vuyo Mere for Bryce Moon at right back, Matty Pattison for Lerato Chabangu in midfield, Lindokuhle Mbatha for Sibusiso Vilakazi, and Edward Manqele for Katlego Mashego in an effort to counter the physical challenge posed by the Malians.
Of the four, Pattison enjoyed the best game, although his efforts were heavily weighted towards his defensive contribution.
The crowd was rather small, perhaps a result of the five o’clock start, and the pitch appeared somewhat slippery, judging by the number of players that lost their footing during the match.
Ultimately, though, despite it being an even clash, Mali were somewhat unlucky not to take the points. They had what looked like a clear penalty disallowed and then saw South Africa awarded a penalty when replays showed Mbatha going down just outside the Eagles’ box.
‘A very tough game’
“I think it was a very tough game for both sides. I think both sides played reasonably well,” coach Gordon Igesund said in a post-match interview.
“We could have scored one or two, I think. We just didn’t take our chances in certain areas, but we played against a good side and the guys worked hard out there today.” he added.
“We had some very good moments in the game, but unfortunately we couldn’t hold onto a win. I think we made a mistake at the back [when they scored].
“At the end of the day it’s a draw and we’ll look forward to our next game.”
Penalty turned down
After an untidy start to the match, with both teams failing to maintain possession and turning it over too easily, Mali came close to making a breakthrough in the ninth minute when Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was lucky not to be penalised for bringing down Abdoulaye Sissoko, who beat the goalkeeper to a through ball. For his trouble, Khune took a knee to the mouth.
Lassana Diarra then came close to netting from the corner that followed, meeting the ball with a powerful side-footed shot, but it flew wide of Khune’s left-hand post.
South Africa responded by forcing Eagles’ goalkeeper Soumaila Diakite to punch a teasing cross away and shortly after that Siphiwe Tshabalala was just off target with an attempted chip.
Just when it seemed that Mali was enjoying the better of the contest and beginning to make more incursions into the Bafana Bafana half, Tshabalala picked up a ball in midfield, and fed Mbatha, who fired off a right footed shot, straight at the keeper. Hlompho Kekana, the scorer of a stunning goal against Mozambique then had a shot blocked on the edge of the box.
Penalty to South Africa
In the 23rd minute, out on the right, Mbatha split two defenders before being brought down by a third as he sped towards the Eagles’ box. The referee pointed to the spot. The Malians remonstrated with him, feeling hard done by and pointing out the disallowed penalty at the other end of the park, and Adama Traore was booked for his overzealous arguing. It was close, but replays showed Mbatha had been tackled just outside the area.
Bernard Parker was entrusted with the spot kick and made no mistake. Diakite dived the correct way, to his right, but Parker’s shot was high and the goalie went low, giving the Kaizer Chiefs striker his 22nd goal for Bafana Bafana.
Stung, Mali started to put South Africa under pressure, building up their attacks with more structure as they sought a way through the hosts’ defence. Bafana, though, stood firm.
In two minds
Tshabalala then caught the goalie in two minds with a lovely, curling cross, which found Mbatha on the right and in space. He struck his shot into the ground, but Mahamadou Traore threw himself in the way of the shot and knocked the ball behind for a South African corner, which Diakite dealt with comfortably.
When Bafana’s defence hesitated when dealing with a throw-in, Sissoko latched onto the ball deep inside the South African box and let fly with a powerful shot. It struck the outside of Khune’s right hand upright and went behind for a corner as the home team breathed a sigh of relief.
Just before the half-time break, a slip by Ousmane Keita in the Mali defence allowed Manqele to fire off a stinging left-footed drive, but Diakite managed to palm it upwards before claiming the ball with both hands.
As time ran out, Khune almost caught Diakite off his line with a quickly taken free kick from inside his own half.
Mali showed attacking intent after the restart and forced Bafana Bafana back into their half. While they set the tempo, they also left themselves open to the counter- attack, but South Africa struggled to make meaningful use of the opportunities that came their way.
They were made to pay less than 10 minutes into the second stanza when Mali found an equaliser through Ibourahima Sidibe. Dit began when Diakite fired a long clearance down the field, which was headed on, then flicked to Sidibe, who blasted a rasping shot past Khune in the South African goal, leaving the Bafana Bafana skipper flat-footed.
Substitute Asavela Mbekile, on for Manqele, had a shot blocked and but Kekana picked up the ball before releasing a snap shot from outside the box. At the other end, Traore tried a snap shot of his own, but his effort passed across the face of goal.
With 20 minutes to play, Tshabalala picked out Parker with a neat pass to the striker’s feet from the left. Receiving the ball in the middle of the box, Parker spun and fired off a left-footed shot. Diakite, though, was able to drop swiftly to his left and prevent the Bafana marksman from taking his tally in the tournament to four goal in two outings.
Buhle Mkhwanazi forced the Malian goalie to save with his feet after Tshabalala found him with a long pass across the Eagles’ defence, but Diakite had no problems dealing with the subsequent corner.
Substitute Lamine Diawara was put through with a chip over the top, but Mkhwanazi pulled off a well-timed tackle at full stretch to prevent Diawara getting off a shot.
In the last minute of regulation time, Sissoko made ground down the right flank before making his way into the South African penalty area. He lined up a shot, but as he got it off it was blocked.
Three minutes of additional time was signalled. Mali threatened with only a minute to play, but Adama Traore’s shot was poor and flashed across Khune’s goal and out for a throw-in on the far side.
With mere seconds remaining Chabangu picked up a yellow card, giving the Eagles a chance to find a late winner from a free kick on their right-hand flank. Pattison cleared with his head, however, and the final whistle sounded moments later.