Late USA goal stuns Bafana
Bafana v USA (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - A late goal from Juan Agudelo was enough to hand USA the Nelson Mandela Challenge trophy and end Bafana Bafana's unbeaten run under Pitso Mosimane.
The 17-year-old beat Itumeleng Khune at his near post in the 84th minute to repeat the scoreline from three years ago in the same competition and with the same opponents as winners.
Before that killer blow for the hosts, the 50 000 strong crowd in the Mother City seemed to rewind to the World Cup as chants, buzzing vuvuzelas, Mexican waves and the sound of Waka Waka echoed around the venue.
South Africa were the better side in the first 45 minutes and in the opening stanza of play, they starved the USA of the ball, much like the locals have been made to pant to see the national team perform on Cape shores.
The atmosphere had a positive effect on Bafana. They bossed proceedings and in the seventh minute, debutante Davide Somma displayed his skills set by holding up the ball, playing in Steven Pienaar and making a quick, short run, but the skipper was unable to complete the one-two.
Moments later, the in-form Leeds United striker silenced his doubters with fast feet and predatory instincts. Tsepo Masilela broke down the left and tried to pick out an unmarked Pienaar in the box, but his effort was blocked. A shot then bounced off Somma and the striker was quick to react. As he was about to pull the trigger, he was hacked down and decent shouts for a penalty were ignored by the referee.
Somma, question by most ahead of the game for his loyalty to the national-team jersey, had nearly every Bafana fan calling for him to be awarded the Man-of-the-Match prize by half-time, which he did indeed lift.
The 25-year-old was substituted shortly after the break and his replacement Sthembiso Ngcobo was not able to match Somma's contribution.
The Kaizer Chiefs ace found the side netting in the 64th minute as USA grew into the game in the second period.
There were fewer chances after the interval and the encounter seemed destined to end in a draw. But Agudelo, who made his debut, took his first chance on the left of the box after receiving a neat, short pass and blasted his effort past Khune into the roof of the net at the near post.
Bafana pressed hard in the final few minutes, with Siphiwe Tshabalala in particular trying his best to force the equaliser from set pieces and goalmouth melees.
Three years ago, a Steve Cherundolo goal lifted USA to a 1-0 victory against South Africa at Ellis Park. The venue may have been different, but Bradley conceded in the post-match press conference that this country is a happy hunting ground for his men.
Bafana have never beaten Team America, but will now shift their attentions to the double header against Egypt next year in the African Nations Cup qualifiers.
2010 has brought South Africa a mixed bag of results, but hosting a successful World Cup and jumping to 50th in the world rankings surely illustrates Bafana are moving in the right direction.
Those clashes against the Pharaohs will show just how far they have progressed. Teams: South Africa:
16 Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), 5 Anele Ngcongca (Genk, Belgium), 3 Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa, Israel), 23 Morgan Gould (SuperSport United), 21 Siyabonga Sangweni (Lamontville Golden Arrows), 13 Kagisho Dikgacoi (Fulham, England), 18 Thanduyise Khuboni (Arrows), 10 Steven Pienaar (captain, Everton, England), 8 Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs), 19 Davide Somma (Leeds United, England) and 17 Bernard Parker (FC Twente, Holland).
Substitutes: 1 Moeneeb Josephs (Orlando Pirates), 2 Siboniso Gaxa (Lierse, Belgium), 14 Bevan Fransman (Hapoel Tel Aviv, Israel), 11 Teko Modise (Orlando Pirates), 12 Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Chiefs), 24 Kermit Erasmus (SuperSport United), 20 Sthembiso Ngcobo (Chiefs), 4 Keegan Ritchie (Moroka Swallows), 9 Matthew Pattison (Mamelodi Sundowns), 15 Andile Jali and (Pirates) and Siyanda Xulu (Mamelodi Sundowns).USA:
18 Brad Guzan (captain, Aston Villa), 5 Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), 7 Alejandro Bedoya (rebro), 8 Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), 11 Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), 12 Jonathan Bornstein (Tigres), 13 Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa), 15 Logan Pause (Chicago Fire), 16 Brian Carroll (Columbus Crew), 20 Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake) and 21 Clarence Goodson (Brondby).
Substitutes: 2 Jonathan Spector (West Ham United), 6 Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake), 9 Teal Bunbury (Kansas City Wizards), 14 Mikkel Diskerud (Stabaek), 17 Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), 22 Gale Agbossoumonde (Estoril Praia) and 23 Dominic Cervi (Celtic).
Referee: Silvester Kirwa (Kenya).