Bafana Bafana are top of Group A in the African Nations Championship (Chan) after opening the tournament with a 3-1 victory over Mozambique in front of a big crowd at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday evening.
‘They gave us a battle’
“They gave us a battle today, they gave us a good fight,” Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said after the match.
“In my humble opinion, I think we were far the better team on the day. We scored some lovely goals and we had full control of the match for 90 minutes.”
The Mambas had taken a shock 11th minute lead against the run of play after Diogo Alberto’s shot from outside of the box deflected off Thato Mokeke and caught South African captain and goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune going the other way.
The hosts, though, dictated the pace of the game and drew level when Sibusiso Vilakazi went down in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Bernard Parker made no mistake and the teams were level after half-an-hour.
Early in the second half, Hlompho Kekana struck a stunning, powerful long distance shot from about 35 metres out that rocketed into the top of the net to put South Africa ahead. The goalkeeper was totally deceived by the swerving ball, diving towards his left-hand post as it flew by him to his right.
Parker made it 3-1 with his 21st international goal coming after a good build-up ended with a pass from Siphiwe Tshabalala, which gave him time to fire off a strong left-footed shot from the left into the back of the net.
‘A good day for football’
“This is a good day for football, and I am very happy after this fine performance by the team,” President Jacob Zuma, who attended the game, said in a statement afterwards.
“You showed a lot of character by coming back to not only to equalise but to go on and score two goals. This is the mark of a good team,” Zuma said. “I hope you grow from strength to strength.”
South African captain Itumeleng Khune said after the contest: “It was really disappointing to have conceded a goal of that nature. The pitch was wet, so when the ball took a wicked deflection I slipped and it went in. But the players showed leadership by telling me to keep my head high because the goal came early and unexpectedly.
“We all showed a lot of character to come back from that point to emerge victorious,” Khune said. “Now we need to build from there when we go into our next match, which is also crucial as a win should almost guarantee us passage to the next round.”
Man of the match and two-goal hero Bernard Parker echoed Khune’s words, saying: “Winning the first game of the tournament gives us a chance to proceed and qualify for the next round. We feel very confident from this victory, but it was a wake-up call for us because we started a bit slow and the positive result is a good motivation for the next game.
“We need to continue with the mental steel we have, where we fight and compete when we are down,” Parker added. “The win has lifted some weight off our shoulders and we can face the next match in a more relaxed mood, but we are aware that this is just the beginning and a lot of work needs to be done so we can go all the way.”
Bafana Bafana next face Mali, who defeated Nigeria 2-1 in their opening encounter. They meet at Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday at 17:00. The clash between Mozambique and Nigeria follows at 20:00.