BAFANA SEND NIGE­RIA PACK­ING

Keet great in goal and Rantie scores a brace be­fore Su­per Ea­gles snatch a last-gasp draw

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - JOHN GO­LIATH

Nige­ria

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South Africa

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.

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