20 January 2014
Bafana Bafana’s poor record against Nigeria continued at Cape Town Stadium on Sunday as the Super Eagles won 3-1 to finish top of Group A and deny the hosts a place in the knockout stages of the 2014 African Nations Championship.
A crowd of 36 000 was on hand, hoping to see Bafana Bafana record only their second win over the Nigerians in nine matches, but they were left disappointed.
Coach Gordon Igesund made four changes to the team that had drawn 1-1 with Mali, including replacing captain Itumeleng Khune, who had been ruled out of the clash earlier in the week, with Moneeb Josephs.
In the back four, Igesund brought in Tefu Mashamaite and Tebogo Langerman for Buhle Mkhwanazi and Thato Mokeke, while Sibusiso Vilakazi took over for striker Edward Manqele.
With Khune ruled, the captain’s armband was handed to Thabo Nthethe for a third time.
Early in the game, Siphiwe Tshabalala provided some excitement when brought a diving rejection of a free kick out of goalkeeper Chigozie Agbim, who was alert to the ball to the far post.
In the 11th minute, Nigeria, fortuitously, almost found a way through the South African defence. After Bafana Bafana cleared from a corner, a mistimed kick found its way to Azubuike Egwuekwe. He tried to shoot from wide on the right, but hooked the ball across the face of goal where it narrowly missed the outstretched leg of Enyimba striker Ifeanyi Ede.
With vuvuzelas buzzing, Tshabalala delivered another free kick into the box, this time from the right, and Tebogo Langerman forced Agbim into a good save, low to his right.
In the 22nd minute, Nigeria took the lead through Ejike Uzoenyi. He was on hand to side-foot the ball past Josephs from just outside the six-yard box after Ede laid on a beautiful pass to his feet from the left. The noisy Nigerian support erupted as the players ran towards them to celebrate the goal.
Just after the half-hour, it got worse for Bafana Bafana. Josephs spilled a free kick from the right, which bounced just in front of him. He reacted by racing off his line and diving after the ball. It was a foolish move. Gbolahan Salami nipped the ball away from the goalie and Josephs took his legs out from under him.
The referee pointed to the spot and pulled out a yellow card for Josephs.
Ede was handed the responsibility of taking the free kick. He went low to Josephs’ right. The goalkeeper got an arm to the ball, but couldn’t keep it out and Nigeria went into a 2-0 lead.
Bernard Parker then came within centimetres of pulling a goal back with a glancing header that scraped past Agbim’s left-hand post.
With Bafana two goals down, Igesund opted to send on striker Katlego Mashego for midfielder Matthew Pattison 10 minutes before the break.
Mali down to Mozambique
While neither team managed to score before half-time, some hope of advancing was provided for South Africa by Mozambique, who took a 38th minute lead through Josemar Machaisse over Mali at the Athlone Stadium.
Mashego came close to finding an opener for the home team in the three minutes added on to the first half when he received a pass between the two central defenders, but his first touch let him down, resulting in a shot high over the Nigeria goal.
Five minutes into the second half, the Super Eagles could have sealed the match when Ede latched onto a loose back pass and tried to beat Josephs low to the goalie’s left. The Bidvest Wits net-minder was up to the challenge, however, and pulled off a sharp save to keep Bafana Bafana in the contest.
A minute later, South Africa’s chances of advancing to the quarterfinals looked slim when Mali equalised against Mozambique through Ibourahima Sidibe.
Just before the hour-mark, Parker perfectly timed his run into the middle of the Nigeria box. He neatly cushioned the ball with his chest before acrobatically striking it into the ground and towards goal. It was fine piece of skill, but straight at Agbim, who gratefully saved.
Then, from the edge of the 18-yard area, Mashego forced the Nigerian goalkeeper into a brilliant, diving save with a wonderful, curling left-footed shot, which was headed for the top corner of Agbim’s goal.
Those were encouraging signs for Bafana, but minutes later they had the breath knocked out of them when Uzoenyi played a neat one-two on the edge of the area before beating Josephs with a left-footed shot to the goalie’s left. At 0-3 down, South Africa were in big trouble, even if Mozambique managed to pull out a win over Mali. South Africa’s supporters looked on quietly, miserably.
It was almost 4-0 to the Super Eagles in the 71st minute when Uzoenyi superbly controlled the ball with his left-foot and then fired off a dipping shot before it hit the ground. Josephs was beaten, but the ball struck the crossbar and rebounded back into play.
With 16 minutes to play, Nigeria’s Solomon Kwambe was shown a red card for a tackle on Tebogo Langerman that was more clumsy than nasty. It gave the home team some hope of pulling off a miracle comeback.
Vuyo Mere, however, picked up a second yellow card only two minutes later, resulting in his sending off, and making it a 10 against 10 game.
With 10 minutes to play, South Africa were awarded a penalty when Ugonna Uzochukwu brought down Mashego after the home side had attacked down the left flank. Parker was handed the ball.
He sent Agbim the wrong way, netting to the keeper’s left to pull one back for Bafana. With only nine minutes to play, however, South Africa still had a mountain to climb if they were to make it into the quarterfinals.
With a minute remaining of regulation time, Mashego was denied by Agbim after a good shot to the goalie’s left. Mashamaite then came close to finding a header from close range to make it 2-3, but his effort passed well wide of the goal.
South Africa were making most of the running and Agbim did well in time added on to close down Mashamaite as the men in yellow worked their way right up to the Nigerian six-yard box.
The hosts fate was then sealed, not by Nigeria but by Mali, who netted a late penalty to edge Mozambique 2-1 to finish top of Group A. The Super Eagles held firm and were deserved 3-1 winners when the final whistle sounded.