26 May 2014
Bafana Bafana, without the services of many of their big-name players, held Australia to a 1-1 draw in a friendly international at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Monday. An enthusiastic crowd of over 50 000 witnessed the match, which served as a Fifa World Cup send-off for the Socceroos.
The contest got off to a lively start, with both teams showing a willingness to move the ball around the park quickly, with the Australians enjoying the better of the territorial battle.
In the eighth minute the first shot on goal forced South African goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa into a good save. Tommy Oar let fly from outside the box and a deflection meant Meyiwa had to dive to his left at full stretch to knock the ball behind for a corner.
From the corner, Seyiwa exhibited sharp reflexes to parry a powerful header from Matthew Leckie. The ball was cleared , but the Aussies quickly surged back onto the attack and Oar once more tested Meyiwa with a low shot from distance.
The home team was enjoying success in turning over possession by pressing high on the Bafana Bafana defenders, who were finding it difficult to penetrate the pressure exerted by the Australian forwards and midfield.
James Troisi tried to test Meyiwa with a shot from 20 metres out, striking the ball sweetly with his left foot, but the shot was always rising and flew over the top of the Bafana Bafana goal.
Bafana Bafana goal
Shortly after that, however, South Africa stunned Australia with a superb goal on the counter-attack. Attacking down the left flank, Thulani Serero picked out Tokelo Rantie, who timed his run perfectly. Rantie cut inside a defender, then cut in once more, but his shot was blocked.
He then dropped the ball back to Ayanda Patosi and the Belgian-based player steered the ball low and accurately into goalkeeper Matthew Ryan’s left-hand corner to put Bafana Bafana ahead.
Almost immediately, though, Australia drew level. Meyiwa failed to deal with a speculative cross from the left and Australian captain Tim Cahill just beat him to the ball to head home and make it 1-1 mere moments after they had fallen behind. It was his record 32nd goal for the Aussies.
The Socceroos had another opportunity to score in the 17th minute, but Meyiwa dived to his right to parry Cahill’s left-footed effort.
After Matthew Leckie made good ground down the right flank, Erick Mathoho hacked the ball clear, but Mark Milligan met the ball powerfully with a drive that again forced a good stop out of Meyiwa. Oar then scooped the ball over the crossbar as the Australians kept up the pressure on Gordon Igesund’s charges.
A poor clearance from Ryan almost led to Serero being played in for South Africa, but the Australian central defenders closed on the Ajax Amsterdam star from both sides to knock the ball clear.
In the 26th minute, the referee showed a yellow card to James Holland after Serero, who had been the victim of a number of tough tackles, was the victim one too many times.
Then the contest moved to the midfield for the next 15 minutes, which allowed Bafana Bafana to come more into it, with their passing becoming more cohesive.
Serero almost broke through the Australian defence just before the break, but his run onto a short pass led to to a heavy first touch and the ball went behind for a goal kick.
When the half-time whistle sounded, the Socceroos had dominated the first half possession and shots, unfortunately the fouls too, but the scoreboard read Australia 1, South Africa 1.
The second half began with a change for both sides, with Bongani Zungu on for Thuso Phala and Matt McKay replacing James Troisi.
In the second minute after the restart, Patosi fired narrowly wide of Ryan’s left-hand post from long range, unleashing a swerving shot that swung just away from goal.
The Australians were then forced into a change when Ivan Franjic, who was ironically injured by his team-mate Jason Davidson, left the field. Luke Wilkshire took over from him.
Matthew Leckie found space down the South African right flank after Bafana conceded possession in midfield, but he dragged his shot and Meyiwa, in goal, was not required to make a save.
After putting some pressure on the Australians, Tokelo Rantie managed to get a shot away from a narrow angle on the right. He skied it, however, and was immediately replaced by Siphelele Mthembu, leaving the field holding his right groin.
Captain Tim Cahill, the scorer of Australia’s goal, then ended his day, with debutant Ben Halloran coming on for the star skipper.
The sudden flood of substitutes continued shortly after that when Patosi, the scorer of the opening goal, left the field, replaced by Themba Zwane.
Zungu managed a snap shot from just inside the Socceroos’ box after the ball went loose from a cross from the right, but he dragged his left-footed shot wide of Ryan’s left-hand post.
With 20 minutes to go, Dario Vidosic took over from Tommy Oar, who had been so impressive in the early going for Australia.
The match lacked the spark and the thrust of the first half and both defences were finding it more comfortable to deal with the challenges thrown down to them by the opposing attacks. When Serero managed a shot, it was hurried and under pressure, and the ball flew high and harmless over the goal.
Leckie showed some frustration 10 minutes from time when he earned a yellow card for a poor tackle from behind. Australia, though, could not find the energy and pace they had shown when they dominated the opening 25 minutes of the contest.
Halloran managed a long range, low shot, but Meyiwa was not tested, getting his body behind the ball and going down low to easily gather it in.
Ngconga was then shown a yellow card by the referee, although he was less than impressed by the decision.
Rolled the dice
Coach Ange Postecoglou rolled the dice late in the clash by sending on Josh Kennedy for the hard-working Matthew Leckie in an effort to find a winner for the Socceroos. With only six minutes remaining on the clock, he had little time to add to his 17 international goals.
Vidosic was on the end of a testing cross with only two minutes showing on the clock, but he pushed a defender down in his efforts to get up to meet the ball with his head and the referee awarded South Africa a free kick.
Four minutes added on
Four minutes was added on at the end of the regulation time and the Aussies nearly found a winner when a looping header passed just wide of Meyiwa’s left-hand post.
South African coach Gordon Igesund, though, slowed the game down by sending on Siyabonga Nhlapho for Thulani Serero and the match petered out into a draw.
A hard-earned and deserved draw
The Socceroos owned the first 25 minutes of the showdown, but once Bafana Bafana had settled down the contest was reasonably even and they came away with a hard-earned and deserved draw.
They next face New Zealand in Auckland on 30 May.