Honours even between SA, Elephants
The Nelson Mandela Challenge match between South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire ended in a 1-1 draw in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
An own goal from Siboniso Gaxa left the Elephants a goal up at half time, but Bafana Bafana replied through an excellent free kick from Katlego Mphela to leave honours even at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
The match gave Pitso Mosimane a chance to test his team against Africa’s highest-ranked side and a draw is a respectable result as they look to build towards the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
Cote d’Ivoire controlled the game in the first half, enjoying a great share of possession, but it was South Africa who created the better goal scoring opportunities.
On the quarter hour mark a great pass from Reneilwe Letsholonyane gave Katlego Mphela a chance to put the hosts into the lead, but – under pressure from Kolo Toure – his low shot was tame and easily saved by goalkeeper Boubacar Barry.
Morgan Gould then forced Barry into producing an excellent save on 30 minutes, heading on goal from Tshabalala’s free kick only to see the Elephants’ goalie keep it out with some sharp reactions at his near post.
In between, the visitors were denied a clear penalty when Gervinho was tripped in the Bafana Bafana box, but the referee somehow failed to point to the spot. Cote d’Ivoire remonstrated with the official, so much so that captain Didier Zokora was cautioned.
The hosts were dealt a blow less than half an hour into the match when first choice left-back Tsepo Masilela was taken off injured, having failed to recover from an earlier collision with Igor Lolo.
Siboniso Gaxa came off the bench to replace the Spanish-based player on 26 minutes. Unfortunately for ‘Pa’, his first noteworthy contribution was an own goal ten minutes before the break – confusion in the Bafana defence saw him head a looping ball into his own net, despite the best efforts of Siyabonga Sangweni to clear it away.
The goal have the Elephants even more confidence and only a great save with his feet from Moeneeb Josephs stopped striker Seydou Doumbia making it 2-0 in the 40th minute after yet more indecisive defending from Gaxa.
The second half saw South Africa up their level of play and they drew level in the 53rd minute, with Mphela scoring a terrific goal direct from a free kick to make it 1-1.
And just three minutes later Bafana almost surged into a lead, as Barry had to make a sharp save to stop Siaka Tiene scoring an own goal as he unwittingly directed a Tshabalala cross towards his net.
Letsholonyane also missed out on a great chance to score a short while later, scooping a shot over the bar after great combination play from Steven Pienaar and Anele Ngcongca to create the chance for the Kaizer Chiefs player.
The hosts looked the likelier scorers for most of the second half but Cote d’Ivoire did have their dangerous moments: Josephs had to make two good saves in the space of a minute to deny both Max Gradel and Doumbia.
In the end, the match fizzled out to a 1-1 draw. Bafana used the chance to bring on some late substitutes, handing senior national team debuts to the likes of George Lebese and Siyabonga Nontshinga.