/ 12 March 2008

Matola hands Bafana the match

A pedestrian Bafana Bafana outfit needed an own goal to beat Zimbabwe 2-1 in a friendly international match at the Germiston Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Gilbert Mushangazhike struck first for the visitors in the 12th minute.

Sthembiso Ngcobo equalised in the 73rd minute and his feeble shot at goal deflected off James Matola late in extra time to give the hosts an unforeseen victory.

Bafana Bafana were sprightly from the start and it looked like they were in the mood for goals. The home team won a free kick after four minutes, just 20m from the goal, but Orlando Pirates playmaker Teko Modise put the ball slightly wide.

A minute later left-back Brett Evans went on a surging run and cleverly cut back a pass but a Zimbabwe boot deflected the ball out of the range of oncoming Bafana players. Kaizer Chiefs midfielder David Mathebula and Amazulu striker Dumisani Ngwenya also combined with a neat one-two, but the Chiefs man’s touch in the box was too heavy and the keeper snatched the ball before he could strike.

Despite all the pressure the visitors remained composed and when they could get forward they did so with a quick, short-passing game.

An unnecessary foul on a Zimbabwe striker gave the visitors their first chance to score, and they did. Another Pirates player, Gilbert Mushangazhike, struck the ball low but the deflection it took off the wall threw Itumeleng Khune off and the ball rolled into the net.

Even with SA captain Modise, Mathebula and Golden Arrows maestro Papi Zothwane on the field the creativity of Bafana was flat, however the Pirates player scored but his effort was deemed offside.

Free State Stars Sthembiso Ngcobo put a header wide when it looked easier to score and when another free kick was gifted to the hosts just outside the big box, Tshabalala struck it in to the wall.

Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira made four changes at the break. Bennet Chenene came on for Tshabalala, Bafo Biyela replaced Dikgacoi, Innocent Mdledle on for Evans and Thulasizwe Mbuyane replaced Zothwane.

The substitutions almost paid off when Modise found Chenene with a superb pass, but the Zimbabwe keeper Energy Murambadoro made a stunning save from the latter’s shot.

Desperate defending and Marambadoro’s body stopped Bafana Bafana from scoring when a scramble ensued in his goal area. The hosts pressed hard and Modise shot from 25m out, but his shot dipped behind the goals.

Zimbabwe again were much more composed going forward than their 2010 World Cup hosts. Mushangazhike showed his vast experience when he held the ball up, found a teammate on the right and Zimbabwe moved in to Bafana’s area, albeit temporarily.

The pressure was incessant but the keeper, aptly named Energy, stood between the hosts and an equaliser. Murambadoro stopped a vicious shot from Ngcobo and minutes later spilt another long-range effort from Modise, but quickly recovered to smother it.

Ajax Cape Town defender Bryce Moon was consistent down the right flank, overlapping and putting in good crosses but his work was wasted upfront.

Chenene missed a glorious chance to score in the 71st minute from a Moon cross, the latter crossed low and the Pirates player made a feeble attempt to score and Murambadoro again snatched the ball.

Murambadoro was the busiest player on the field but there was little he could do when Ngcobo scored after he parried the ball in the Stars striker’s path from a Chenene shot.

Bafana were back in the game and pressed for the winner but wayward shooting let them down. Another long-range effort from Modise just dipped too late.

With seconds left in the game Matola gave the hosts a surprising victory when he threw himself at a harmless looking shot that bounced off him and in to the back of the net. – Sapa