Bafana holds Algeria to goalless game

Djamel Mesbah of Algeria and Thulani Serero of South Africa. (Gallo)

Djamel Mesbah of Algeria and Thulani Serero of South Africa. (Gallo)

South Africa, who are 68 places below Algeria in the world rankings, had the better chances in the first half on Saturday evening, pushing forward in the latter stages before the break. They continued, however, in their struggle to capitalise up front, just one week before their Afcon opener against Cape Verde Islands.

Kagisho Dikgacoi created the first excitement of the game, after a lame opening 20 minutes, but he mistimed an attempted bicycle kick in front of the Algerian goalmouth. Hameur Bouazza received the ball in space soon after, but he was placed under pressure by Bafana keeper Itumeleng Khune and chipped the ball wide to the left with a deflected effort.

Two minutes later Bouazza had the first real opportunity of the game, slipping into the area from the left, but he blasted over the crossbar.

Shortly after the half-hour mark, Bernard Parker placed the ball well from a long-range free kick, but Siyabonga Sangweni just failed to get to it.

Islam Simani thundered a wayward left-footed shot high and left from the edge of the area seven minutes before the break, fluffing the visiting side's last chance of the opening period. Moments later Katlego Mphela intercepted for Bafana and rounded a defender, but he hurriedly blasted straight to Algerian keeper Rais Mbolhi, who kept the ball out with his legs.

In the dying stages of the second half, Parker fired in a curling left-footed strike, with Mbolhi diving to his right to parry it wide. Bafana coach Gordon Igesund made wholesale changes in the second half and the hosts seemed a little more disjointed as Algeria got a couple of breakthroughs.

Five minutes after the break, Simani charged down the left flank and slid in, with only Khune to beat, but he hit the side netting from a tight angle.

Simani then took Algeria's first shot on target, in the 55th minute, which was easily saved by Khune, who got off the ground to reach it.

Bafana surged ahead sporadically in the final half hour, and Siphiwe Tshabalala slammed in an attempt off the volley, which sailed centimetres over the bar.

Fellow replacement Reneilwe Letsholonyane took a wild strike that soared into the crowd with 11 minutes left in the match.

South Africa face Cape Verde in the opening encounter of the Afcon tournament in Johannesburg next week. They also square up against Morocco and Angola in Group A. Algeria are up against the Côte d'Ivoire, Tunisia and Togo in Group D. – Sapa

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