Ntseki’s silences doubters in Mali win
As beginnings go, Molefi Ntseki could not have asked for better.
Granted, yesterday’s Nelson Mandela Challenge match against Mali was but a friendly and it is only in the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Ghana and Sudan that his true test will come.
But a win is a win and at international level it is generally accepted that there is nothing friendly about clashes between countries.
This match was always about Ntseki imposing himself as the new man in charge of Bafana Bafana after taking over from Stuart Baxter who resigned after the Africa Cup of Nations.
Those that doubted he was worthy of the position would have been silenced after this 2-1 victory over a pretty strong Mali side that meant business.
More importantly though, Bafana would have sent a warning to the Black Stars that they will not be making the trip to Accra in November to be slaughtered.
Deprived of his star player, Percy Tau, as well as workaholic striker Lebo Mothiba, due to injury, Ntseki managed to put together a team that did the country proud.
— Bafana Bafana (@BafanaBafana)
Bafana enjoyed the bulk of the possession in the first 30 minutes but poor decision making and lack of precision with their final ball let them down.
On other hand, Mali looked like scoring whenever they were in possession in the final third, the visitors playing at a frenetic pace and attacking with fluidity.
Ronwen Williams made three crucial saves to keep Mali at bay. The SuperSport United shot-stopper denying Hadi Sacko seven minutes into the match with a spectacular save after the Malian had shot from distance.
A few minutes later he was called into action again and made a comfortable save to deny Mamadou Fofana.
Playing in his hometown, Williams was clearly keen on keeping a clean sheet and he showed a great sense of anticipation whenever Mali attacked.
Bafana created a few half chances but did not trouble Adama Keita much.
But it was Bafana who opened scoring despite Mali threatening more often. Thulani Serero was fouled in the box by Cheikh Traore and the referee penalised Mali. Dean Furman stepped up and converted the spot kick on 25 minutes.
Themba Zwane came on for Keagan Dolly and made an instant impact by scoring the second goal in the last action of the first half. It was a lovely move by Bafana that was orchestrated by Thapelo Morena, decorated by Thembinkosi Lorch and finished by Zwane with aplomb.
After the interval, Williams made way for Darren Keet.
Bafana turned on the style in the second half but could not break through. They were all over Mali until they made numerous changes which affected their momentum. Bradley Grobler should have killed the game off in the 58th minute but his attempt sailed wide after being set up by Zwane.
Ntseki made several changes in the second half. He wanted to test new combinations and give all his players game time. He took off the likes of Serero, Mokotjo, Lorch and Grobler. He replaced them with Lebogang Phiri, Thato Mokeke, Mosa Lebusa and and Kermit Erasmus.
That affected the rhythm and brought Mali back into the game. The visitors reduced the deficit with 15 minutes to go when Sekou Koita produced a good solo run to beat the Bafana defence. He finished with aplomb to give his side hope of conjuring up a sensational comeback. But Bafana were resolute defensively in the final quarter hour as they stretched their winning streak in the Mandela Challenge to six years.
And Ntseki went some way to showing he is not just the cheap option some were saying he is, but that he is a proper coach.
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