at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Cape Town – Referee Mal Souley Mohamadou lived up to his first name on Wednesday and gave some crazy decisions that could have left Bafana Bafana on the verge of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the African Nations Championship (Chan) and Mali fuming.
The Cameroon official waved off a clear penalty for Mali after South African captain Itumeleng Khune brought down Abdoulaye Sissoko inside the penalty area in the eighth minute of the match.
The look on Khune’s face was priceless, as he half-heartedly waved his finger in the air to protest his innocence. The referee bizarrely gave a corner, suggesting that Khune got the ball instead of the man.
Bafana were then awarded a dubious penalty in the 23rd minute when the referee adjudged that the impressive Lindokhule Mbatha was brought down in the Mali penalty area by Adama Traore. However, replays suggest that the contact was outside the penalty area, prompting the Mali bench to erupt and throw a few choice French words around.
Bafana striker Bernard Parked slotted the penalty home for his third goal of the tournament to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
However, the lead only lasted nine minutes into the second half when Bafana’s defence went to sleep from a free-kick that was pumped from deep in the Eagles’ half.
Giant Mali striker Lassana Diara managed to collect the second ball after South Africa failed to deal with the free-kick, and the big No9 set up Ibourahima Sidibe to smash the ball home from inside the Bafana penalty area.
Bafana and Mali will now have to try and win their final matches on Sunday against Nigeria and Mozambique respectively to see who will progress to the quarter-finals.
There were patches of good football by both sides in between all the controversy. But this encounter was largely a scrappy affair, as both teams were really terrible in the final attacking third of the pitch.
Bafana coach Gordon Igesund made four changes to the team who beat Mozambique 3-1 in the opening game of the tournament.
One of those changes was striker Edward Mnqele, who was a surprise inclusion ahead of Katlego Mashego.
Mnqele looked a little off the pace, as he couldn’t get to a wonderful ball from Mbatha inside the area early in the match.
Mbatha, though, was the most impressive player of the changes.
The Platinum Stars man impressed with his blistering runs and neat footwork down the right touchline. But he seems to lack confidence at this level, especially when it comes to that crux moment in front of goal.
Mbatha beat his man with great footwork in the 23rd minute, but bizarrely chose to shoot with his right foot, when he should have placed the ball with his left.
He also had a great chance in the 37th minute, but his effort was shot straight into the ground after a terrific ball by Siphiwe Tshabalala from the left.
Mali had a great chance in the 42nd minute after a mix-up by Khune and Hlompho Kekana in the South African penalty area. However, Sissoko could only hit the post, summing up their lack of good fortune in the first stanza.
Mali opted for route one in the second half, and it paid off almost immediately when Sidibe scored.
Bafana struggled to deal with Mali’s aerial threat, and they pounced on the second ball despite Bafana pushing the numbers back to help get to the scraps. Traore shot wide with a thundering shot from the left in the 61st minute when pouncing on a knock down from one of his attackers would have been the better option.
Igesund’s first substitute – Asavela Mbekile – was a strange one, especially as the defensive midfielder came on just after Mali scored. His job was probably to mop up the second balls, but he didn’t give Bafana any go-forward after he replaced Mnqele.
As a result, Bafana struggled to get sufficient bodies into the box in the last quarter, but Parker and Bhule Mkhanazi had two inviting chances towards the end of the match to wrap it up for the hosts.