Spirited second-half performance fails to tame determined Lions of Teranga.
ALL eyes were on goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane. Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba had put him on the spot after slotting him in against Senegal here last night, replacing Darren Keet following South Africa’s 3-1 defeat to Algeria on Monday night. Every time the ball approached Bafana’s half, more especially the penalty area, or Senegal were awarded a corner kick, it got tense.
The Mpumalanga Black Aces goal minder was one of two changes Mashaba had made coming into this clash, with Mulomowandau Mathoho replacing the injured Rivaldo Coetzee.
When Mathoho’s central defence partnership alongside Thulani Hlatshwayo had to be changed with only half an hour played after the latter suffered from a clash of heads, it was even more nerve wrecking.
The Lions of Teranga have the most lethal strike force at this Africa Cup of Nations. They boast of Moussa Sow and Mame Diouf, goal scorers in their 2-1 win match against Ghana in Group C just a few hours before Bafana were beaten by Algeria.
The two sides were evenly matched going into the break goalless.
But Bafana picked up a gear quickly in the second half, breaking the deadlock in the 47th minute – another early goal in the second phase of the match like they did against Algeria.
Using their strength, which is speed and running at the opposition, striker Tokelo Rantie broke through and found rightback Anele Ngcongca after the defender had surged forward and wasted no time and sending in a low cross into the box.
Oupa Manyisa was calm and composed to put the ball past Senegal goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul.
But Bafana did not hold on to the lead for too long. There were still elements of complacency when Bafana were defending set-plays.
And, when the South African rearguard was finally breached by the tall Serigne Mbodji’s equaliser on the hour mark, goalkeeper Mabokgwane had stumbled over the one important challenge he had to overcome in this game.
This kind of goal had been coming. While Mabokgwane had appeared solid in the first half in dealing with crosses from set-plays and corner kicks, Bafana were committing far too many fouls in their own half to not be eventually punished. It is no surprise then that the keeper – not the tallest of players in this entire tournament – was beaten from a set piece.
Mabokgwane was not all too rattled though by failing to keep a clean sheet and showed his quality when Dame Ndoye unleashed a thunderbolt from distance, which the goalkeeper was able to push away for a corner kick. He again reacted quickly in the box to punch away the threat when the looping ball went searching for one of their dangermen.
In the end this encounter did provide Bafana with the best outcome.
However, it was enough to send it right down to the wire of the final round of matches on Tuesday even though South Africa are the least favourite to qualify for the next phase as they currently occupy bottom place.
They have just one point from two matches, while Senegal leads the group with four, followed by Algeria and Ghana with a point less.