Old rival subdued
Bafana Bafana beat Pharaohs in friendly
The record books will show that Bafana Bafana earned another victory against one of their healthily-respected continental rivals, Egypt, with last night’s 1-0 Nelson Mandela Challenge win at Orlando Stadium.
Mpho Makola headed Bafana ahead in the eighth minute, and that was where the scoreline remained in this international that lived up to its status as a friendly.
Bafana’s dull 1-1 dead rubber draw against Mauritania in Nelspruit on Friday brought their disappointing failure to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations to an end with a whimper, with the axe even reportedly hanging over coach Shakes Mashaba’s head.
With the resultant gloom surrounding the national team, not too much was expected from this 21st edition of the match honouring Mandela.
And so it proved. At the end of long Afcon qualifying campaigns (Egypt, champions from 2006 to 2010, reversed their recent failures to reach Gabon 2017) neither side seemed up for an international friendly of much intensity.
Any side coached by a former Inter boss – Argentinean Hector Cuper, and that started with Roma winger Mohamed Salah and Arsenal defensive midfielder Mohamed Elneny, would be tough to crack.
Meetings between Bafana and the Pharaohs are always tight and tactical, and usually pleasant on the eye too, given the contrast in styles of the quick, skilful South Africans, and structurally disciplined, physical Egyptians.
Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns’ exploits in African club competitions in the last four years have increased the mutual respect between the two footballing nations.
In this match, apart from a few moments of forcefulness in attack, the sides cut unthreatening geometric lines across the Orlando turf, at times lulling supporters into near slumber.
Mashaba made four changes from his starting lineup against Mauritania, introducing Clayton Daniels in central defence, Dean Furman in defensive midfield and Mandla Masango and Keagan Dolly on the wings.
Bafana’s defence early on looked like it could succumb too easily to the intelligent probing of Egypt’s frontline. In the seventh minute the SA back four were alarmingly split, with just Thulani Hlatshwayo left as cover as Salah’s pass found Al Ahly striker Abdallah Elsaid, whose shot was well stopped by a diving Itumeleng Khune.
Within a minute, from the counter-attack, and with the Egyptian defence backpedalling, Masango was put into space on the right and crossed to find Makola up alone to head a fine finish past goalkeeper Ahmed Elshenawy.