Bafana edge out Zambia
Pretoria - Bafana Bafana got 2009, and their preparations for the Confederations Cup in June off to a winning start when they defeated Zambia 1-0 in a friendly international played at Atteridgeville's Super Stadium on Tuesday night.
Bafana have now stretched their winning record to five matches and overall there were a lot of positives to come out of the match. Kaizer Chiefs winger Siphiwe Tshabalala was outstanding and grows in confidence with every game for club and country.
The powers that be at the South African Football Association decided that they would award caps for this match after stating that this was a practice game. Instead the match was changed to a full international friendly despite Bafana fielding a side comprising local based Premier Soccer League players.
The local players did Bafana and South Africa proud and were never in any danger against Zambia who were on the back foot for most of this match. Had it not been for some great goalkeeping and poor finishing the win would have been much bigger.
Zambia in turn decided to beef up their squad by including Free State Stars keeper Kennedy Mweene, Golden Arrows defender Joseph Musonda, SuperSport United midfielder Noah Chivuta and Mamelodi Sundowns striker Collins Mbesuma. Originally Zambia had named a squad from players that play in the Zambian league.
Mbesuma looked a shadow of the player who scored 35 goals and helped Kaizer Chiefs win the PSL title in 2005.
But what is baffling about Bafana head coach Joel Santana is the fact he was screaming for clubs to release players, selected 24 players for this match and only used three substitutes in Katlego Mashego, new cap Abia Nale and Orlando Pirates midfielder Lebogang Mothibantwa who came in referee's optional time.
The idea was to have a look at what depth he has in the PSL with an eye on next month's friendly against Chile in Polokwane scheduled for February 11.
Mweene was the star of the first half when he thwarted Bafana strikers time and again with some breath taking saves. Bafana were well on top and Itumeleng Khune in Bafana's goal was not called upon to make a single save in a one sided opening 45 minutes dominated by the home side.
But disappointing in the first half for Bafana was Ajax Cape Town striker Mabhuti Khenyeza. He more than deserved his call-up after scoring regularly this season at club level, but he seemed to freeze and wasted a couple of easy chances that could have given Bafana the lead. He did not look a threat to the likes of Bafana's other strikers, Bernard Parker Terror Fanteni or Benni McCarthy.
Khenyeza was put through in the 17th minute by captain on the night Teko Modise but the Urban Warriors star lost possession. He then headed wide after he beat Mweene to a tremendous cross from the in-form Siphiwe Tshabalala in the 19th minute.
Then Khenyeza headed a Lucas Thwala cross wide in the 28th minute. He missed a sitter three minutes later when he was put through on goal by Tshabalala and with the goal at his mercy Khenyeza blasted over the crossbar from close range.
Modise brought out the best in the agile Mweene when the Free State Stars keeper did well to save his in swinging free kick in the 34th minute and four minutes later brilliantly saved Modise's powerful close range header that had goal written all over it.
But Mweene was forced to leave the field injured in the 49th minute and replaced by Davy Kaumbua.
But the new keeper had no time to settle in when he was forced to pick the ball out of his net after he was beaten by a superb trade mark Modise free kick in the 53rd minute that gave the home side a deserved 1-0 lead.
The goal woke up the Zambians who finally decided to make a game of it and Khune pulled off a stunning save from a powerful Chivuta rocket on 55 minutes. However, Bafana weathered the mini storm and quickly regained control of the game. But the second half fizzled out and fialed to match the pace of the first 45 minutes.
Khenyeza failed to connect another good cross from hard running right back Siboniso Gaxa in the 82nd minute and was eventually replaced by Chiefs new star Nale.