Three in a row for Bafana

Bafana Bafana’s revival continued when they defeated Ghana 2-1 in a drama-filled friendly international at the Free State Stadium on Wednesday night.

The win over what was virtually a Ghana B team was Bafana’s third in succession, and gives under-fire coach Joel Santana much-needed breathing space as he prepares his squad for next June’s Confederations Cup.

The winner was netted by super-sub Bernard Parker in the 78th minute. It was the Thanda Royal Zulu striker’s third goal in as many matches for his country.

The proceedings started strangely when the players were introduced to the dignitaries while facing the empty part of the stadium where the stands are being renovated. The players then sang their national anthems in front of those empty stands while the majority of 10 000 supporters looked on bemused from the packed opposite end of the stadium.

But then things got worse. After the South African Broadcasting Corporation decided on Monday to start the match at 8.30pm instead of 8pm in order to flight their regular programmes, the game eventually kicked off 15 minutes late. Considering most of the fans in the stadium had to go to work on Thursday and the viewers at home also had to work the next day, it is simply unacceptable for a country that will host the 2010 World Cup finals not to be able to start an ordinary friendly at the correct advertised time.

While the fans waited impatiently for the late kick-off, Bafana assistant coach Jairo Leal appeared to be involved in a heated argument and had to be restrained by members of the Bafana security and technical team.

Santana made a couple of changes from the team that beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 in their final 2010 African Nations Cup qualifier in Malabo last weekend.

He started with veteran goalkeeper Brian Baloyi in place of Kaizer Chiefs youngster Itumeleng Khune. The Mamelodi Sundowns keeper’s last match for his country was in the 1-0 Cosafa Cup away win over Mauritius in February 2005. Baloyi was a late replacement for the Equatorial Guinea game after replacing injured Moeneeb Josephs. But he looked nervous when opting to punch the ball instead of catching it during the opening half.

Russia-based Matthew Booth replaced Nasief Morris at centre back, Macbeth Sibaya came in for defensive midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi and Israel-based left back Tsepo Masilela played in place of Bradley Carnell.

Booth played a blinder and Morris, who has been captain Aaron Mokoena’s regular partner at the heart of the defence, has been served notice that he is going to have to fight to get his place back.

The reports that Ghana would have their big-name star, Stephen Appiah, in their line-up proved false. The veteran midfielder, who is recovering from a long-term injury, did not travel with the Ghana squad.

The highlight of the first half was not the game but the passionate Bloemfontein Celtic and Bafana fans who roared their lungs out in support of their team. The stadium was rocking.

Ghana keeper Fatau Dauda made a timely save from Sibaya’s 20m shot. Then Teko Modise volleyed over the crossbar from a Benni McCarthy pass after 23 minutes.

The fans were baying for Zimbabwean referee Kenias Marange’s blood when Ghana scored against the run of play in the 39th minute. Bafana should have had a corner when a Black Star defender played the ball over his goal line, but the erratic referee awarded a goal kick, from which Yaw Antwi managed to slot home Ghana’s goal. The goal-kick decision was comical and in the end cost Bafana a goal that Ghana did not deserve.

But Bafana were level within a minute when McCarthy latched on to a clever Modise cross and slammed home the equaliser for his 31st international goal.

Modise then had the crowd on their feet when he hit the outside of the woodwork with a fiercely struck 25m rocket that had Dauda well beaten on 45 minutes.

Siphiwe Tshabalala, who roasted the Ghana defenders for most of the night, teased with a shot-cum-cross in the 55th minute that flew wide of the upright as Bafana went for the kill in the second half.

Four minutes later Dauda was forced to fist Tshabalala’s free kick over his crossbar. Baloyi did well to pouch a shot from Antwi in the 63rd minute.

Then one of the main floodlights blew, but there was sufficient lighting in the other floodlights for the match to continue without any problems.

Baloyi then made the save of the night in the 67th minute when he stopped a scorcher from the Black Stars Russia-based captain Haminu Draman.

Then came Parker’s powerful header from a Modise corner in the 78th minute to give Bafana their hat-trick of wins. — Sapa

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