BAFANA SEND NIGERIA PACKING
Keet great in goal and Rantie scores a brace before Super Eagles snatch a last-gasp draw
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W. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .( 1) 2 HO would have thought that four months after coach Shakes Mashaba took over the hot seat at Bafana Bafana that the national team would qualify for the 2015 African Cup of Nations. Never mind going through their qualifiers unbeaten and getting a draw with Nigeria away from home in the process.
It’s a spectacular turnaround in fortunes for a Bafana side who were called a bunch of losers by the Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula at the start of the year following their premature exit from the African Nations Championships (Chan) on home soil. On that January day it was Nigeria who knocked Bafana out of the competition.
But last night, at the Ibom International Stadium in Uyo, Bafana returned the favour by preventing Nigeria from qualifying outright for the continental showpiece.
Nigeria needed to win the match to qualify for January’s Afcon in Equatorial Guinea. Bafana, though, should have grabbed all three points after Tokelo Rantie scored a brace either side of the halftime break.
It was Bafana’s first ever goal in Nigeria, and it was a chance to get their first ever win against the Super Eagles in a competitive match.
However, it was not to be as Omatsone Aluko scored two second-half goals of his own to earn the home side a draw.
Bafana made their intentions clear in the encounter when Rantie went on a typical explosive run, which left one Nigerian defender sprawling on the ground. The English-based-striker, though, decided to go for glory with his weaker left foot, instead of laying it off to either Kermit Erasmus next to him, or the oncoming Reneilwe Letsholonyane, who was also unmarked in the penalty area.
The Super Eagles seemed to come alive after the scare with Ahmed Musa terrorising the Bafana defenders every time he got the ball in space, either through the middle or on the right flank.
In the eighth minute the CSKA Moscow man went on a dangerous solo run after captain Dean Furman uncharacteristically gave the ball away in midfield. However, Musa was brilliantly denied by Darren Keet in the Bafana goal.
Eight minutes later Musa had another chance to try and beat Keet in a one-on-one situation but the Bafana man, playing with gloves with a special message for slain goalkeeper and captain Senzo Meyiwa, showed his class with another pointblank save. Every Nigerian ball in the box was dealt with in the first half, as Bafana put their bodies on the line to ensure they didn’t concede.
The dangerous Ike Uche didn’t have a lot of chances inside the Bafana penalty area. But he had one of his rare shots blocked in the 26th minute by one of the unsung heroes in the team, Eric Mathoho.
Rantie silenced the boisterous crowd in the 42nd minute when he scored one of the finest goals ever by a player in Bafana colours. After Furman slipped the English-based striker the ball on the left, he powered his way through and around the Nigerian defenders, before composing himself and steering the ball past Vincent Enyeama.
The Bournemouth player then completed his brace early in the second half with a similar show of his power. After dispossessing the Nigerians, he powered his way towards goal before rounding Enyeama and steering the ball into the back of the net with his left foot.
Nigeria, though, wasn’t going to play dead and came hard at the South Africans in the second half.
Bafana were guilty of defending a little too deep and paid the price when Omatsone Aluko pulled a goal back in the 68th minute. Aluko then scored the equaliser in stoppage time with a fearsome right-footed drive to deny Bafana a famous win.