Bumbling Bafana blow it again
SOUTH Africa's World Cup qualification hopes hang in the balance following this frenetic 1-1 draw against brave and worthy neighbours Botswana, writes Marc Strydom at the University of Botswana Stadium, Gaborone.
Both sides needed a win after poor results in their opening matches, and it was a frantically contested game.
Bafana interim coach Steve Komphela sensibly recognised that a more direct, aggressive approach was needed from the possession style used in their 1-1 opening draw against Ethiopia and yesterday they shot on sight.
This was a committed performance from the South Africans but they had a unique talent of a goalkeeper standing in their way in Kabelo Dambe, who kept Botswana in the game with some spectacular saves.
Komphela said afterwards: "In the first half there were stages where we were in control. We played the way we would have liked to and there was an element of commitment.
"There were some concentration lapses, but to an extent where we could still survive. We got a beautiful goal and I thought, 'there's the possibility of a result'. But we allowed the opposition to come into our box too much [to equalise]."
It was yet another match in which South Africa were unable to find an away win against lowly ranked opposition (106th), and there's a reason for that. Bafana do not have the strength of an Ivory Coast who can steamroller opposition home or away, which is likely to make SA's opening draw all the more costly.
Botswana came into the qualifier with problems of their own, having started with a 2-0 defeat away to Central African Republic.
The Zebras were already feeling the effects of the retirement of SuperSport United playmaker Dipsy Selolwane and captain Modime Marumo, and injury to Boitumelo Mafoko.
But two key players, defender Mompati Thuma and striker Mogakolodi Ngele, returned from missing the Central African Republic game.
Komphela made two changes from the Ethiopia defeat, Punch Masanamela replacing the injured Tsepo Masilela and Orlando Pirates playmaker Oupa Manyisa coming in for Reneilwe Letsholonyane.
Bafana survived a fourth-minute scare when big defender Ndiyapho Letsholathebe headed Patrick Motsepe's free kick onto the crossbar. At the other end Siphiwe Tshabalala's shot was cleared off the line.
South Africa took the lead in simple manner in the 14th minute, Morgan Gould rising at the near post to deflect Pienaar's well-shaped corner past goalkeeper Dambe.
Their vigorous approach had the underdogs unsettled as Bafana stamped their authority with chances by Tshabalala and Katlego Mphela that had to be athletically stopped by Dambe.
As Bafana eased off the pedal in a quiet period they were stunned when the home side equalised in the 38th minute. Botswana practically battered their way into the SA area, with a shot from Ngele blocked by a defender and midfielder Ofentse Nato slamming the rebound past Itumeleng Khune.
As much as Botswana lifted their pace in the second half, South Africa measured it and came close with Gould's header and Mphela's shot from range. Tshepo Motlhabankwe desperately cleared in front of Pienaar as the home side ended the game desperately preserving a draw.