Bafana super-sub Thabang Sibanyoni sends 10-man Eswatini packing
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CAPE TOWN – South Africa's national team Bafana Bafana emerged slender 1-0 winners over neighbours Eswatini in a top-of-the-table Cosafa Cup Group A clash at the Wolfson Stadium in the Eastern Cape on Thursday afternoon.
The outcome allowed Bafana Bafana to retain a 100%-win record against Eswatini's Sihlangu Semnikati in five Cosafa Cup games. Bafana Bafana's performance was far from convincing against gutsy opposition.
A lively first half ended on a sour note when Mozambique referee Wilson Muianga red-carded Eswatini talisman and captain Felix Badenhorst after a second bookable offence. It was a huge blow for Eswatini because he was far and away the team's most influential player up to that stage.
Moments earlier, Badenhorst unleashed a powerful shot from a free-kick about 15 metres out the Bafana Bafana penalty area. The shot carried just over the wall and fractionally above the crossbar, with keeper Veli Mothwa unsighted.
Two days ago, Badenhorst wrote his name in the Cosafa Cup history books when he replaced Zimbabwean legend Peter Ndlovu as the all-time leading goal scorer in the regional competition. The red card could effectively end his participation in the event.
As lively as the action was, the teams hardly fashioned goalscoring chances. By the time the first half ended, Eswatini had managed the lone first-half shot at goal. Bafana Bafana, despite an overwhelming 62% possession advantage, managed a mere two shots but neither was on target.
Bafana Bafana enjoyed a let-off when second-half play resumed, as Mothwa produced an instinctive one-handed save to deny Eswatini striker Justice Figuareido who found space in the striking zone after the opposition's central defence sprung a leak. Figuareido plies his trade locally with DStv Premiership outfit TS Galaxy.
Just ahead of the hour mark, Bafana Bafana were finally able to exploit their one-man advantage. Strangely it was also a TS Galaxy striker. This time it was Thabang Sibanyoni who had earlier joined the fray as a substitute. Eswatini initially managed to contain a spirited sortie into their goalmouth, but they failed to clear once too often.
After he was left unmarked out wide, Sibanyoni latched onto a scoring feed and fired a low drive from an acute angle which saw the ball evade a despairing dive from Eswatini keeper Ncamiso Dlamini (1-0).
Ten minutes later, Eswatini managed a penetrative counter-attack on the back on an innocuous upfield kick and Eswatini's lone striker Sabelo Ndzinisa outstripped the backpedalling defence to land a shot on goal. However, Mothwa was well in a position to make a comfortable save.
In the final eight minutes, Bafana Bafana enjoyed a raft of scoring opportunities, However, their marksmen were decidedly wayward in front of the opposition's goal.
At the death, the 10-man Eswatini had a golden chance to salvage a share of the spoils when a goalmouth cross, blown in the path of the strong wind, went unchallenged and flew harmlessly past the upright.