25 March 2013
Bafana Bafana got their Fifa World Cup qualifying campaign back on track with a 2-0 victory over the Central African Republic (CAR) at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday evening. “I’ll take the win and also I’ll take the way we played,” coach Gordon Igesund said afterwards.
While South Africa won by two clear goals, it could have been a far bigger victory. Gaps appeared in the Wild Beasts’ defence late in the contest as they chased the game, and the home side wasted three clear-cut chances to turn a good margin of victory into an emphatic one.
On the other hand, the opening goal scored by Thabo Matlaba was a stunner. After receiving the ball on the left, about 30 metres from goal, he cut inside and struck a dipping shot over goalkeeper Geoffrey Lembet into the far right-hand corner to give the home team a first-half lead.
Named man of the match award, Matlaba, who was a thorn in the side of the CAR all night long, said: “I always shoot from distance. I told myself there, I’m not going to pass. I didn’t see anyone to pass to and I told myself I’m going to take a shot there and I hit the target.”
Despite the two-goal victory, it was far from one-way traffic for Bafana Bafana, who gave the visitors a little too much room in midfield and time on the ball. Nonetheless, Igesund delcared himself happy with the clean sheet.
Captain Itumeleng Khune was called on make some good saves, but Lembet had a harder time, even though the possession stakes were almost even.
The CAR netminder was beaten for a second time by Bernard Parker, who netted in the 70th minute, after receiving a ball from Siphiwe Tshabalala and beating his man before slotting it into the net past the keeper.
Lembet was also somewhat lucky to prevent May Mahlangu scoring a third. The midfielder’s long distance shot drew a full length, low dive to his right from the goalie. The ball struck his outstretched arm and deflected sharply upwards onto the crossbar and behind for a corner. A few centimetres lower and South Africa would have had another goal.
The CAR had the ball in the back of the net during the game, but after first signalling a goal the referee Kalyango Ali disallowed it. “The referee did not validate a goal and the linesman did not even call the referee. The players put pressure on the linesman to disallow the goal. That’s not fair,” coach Herve Loungoudji complained afterwards.
He may have had a point, but the ball made it into the net by way of an egregious hand ball that should have resulted in a yellow card at the very least. Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal came nowhere being as obvious.
For coach Gordon Igesund, who had gone into the match without the Afcon 2013 central defensive pairing of Bongani Khumalo and Siyabonga Sangweni, the performance of his central defenders against the CAR was a highlight of Bafana’s performance.
“I thought Thabo Mthethe at the back was excellent tonight with Morgan Gould in the back four,” he said, “but the important thing is I said we were going to score goals and we scored two tonight. In actual fact, I think we could have scored four or five.
“At the end of the day, I am very happy,” he added. “We kept the ball nicely. We got wide. We had great support here tonight. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
“The nice thing is we can better and better. I’m getting a good opportunity to see a lot of younger players. I was happy tonight with Oupa Manyisa when he came on. He put his foot on the ball and he kept it nicely.”
Captain Itumeleng Khune was also satisfied with his team’s showing. “It was a great game. We came with a plan and we executed it very well,” he said.
“CAR were very good, tactically and technically, but we managed to contain them. When they came at us, they were a threat, but managed to stand firm and hold our ground and intercept those balls.”
There was one negative for Bafana on the night, with Dean Furman suffering a nasty-looking head wound in the 35th minute that led to him being substituted.
There were some concerns that he might have broken some facial bones, but he was given the all clear after undergoing scans and was released from hospital.
Both coaches, Igesund and Loungoudji, were in a positive frame of mind about the return match in the CAR.
Igesund said: “This was a very, very important game and the nice thing about tonight’s game is I now know what we have to do when we go play them away and I’m quite confident that we’ll go there and get the points as well because I thought we were better than them in a lot of departments.
“We won’t get carried away. We’ll keep working hard.”
Loungoudji said: “A home match remains a home match. After the Africa Cup of Nations, Bafana has played again in front of its public and they won the match. That’s fine. But when we see Bafana again, we’ll be playing Bafana at home and then we’ll show Bafana what we can do at home.”
The victory took South Africa to the top of the group standings, but they lie second after the weekend following a 1-0 win by Ethiopia over Botswana on Sunday.
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