Bafana top group after Freetown draw
11 October 2010
Bafana Bafana are well placed at the top of their African Nations Cup qualifying group after holding Sierra Leone to a goalless draw in Freetown on Sunday, with continental powerhouse Egypt suffering a shock defeat to minnows Niger.
Egypt, the winners of the Nations Cup three times in succession, drew one-all with Sierra Leone in their first qualifying outing and yesterday went down 1-0 to Niger in Niamey. South Africa cruised to a 3-0 home win over Niger in their first qualifying game.
After two matches, South Africa tops Group G on four points, Niger is in second place with three points, Sierra Leone has two points from two draws, and the Pharaohs, shockingly, have only one point.
In their previous Nations Cup qualifying campaign, Bafana lost to Sierra Leone in Freetown, but they started out brightly this time around, taking the game to their hosts.
Despite a difficult, bumpy pitch, Pitso Mosimane's charges dominated play in the opening 10 minutes and Bernard Parker came close to opening the scoring. Tsepho Masilela set the striker up with a good cross from the left, but goalkeeper Christian Caulker denied his headed shot.
Sierra Leone began to control possession and on 25 minutes Mustapha Bangura was set clear by Mohamed Bangura. Itumeleng Khune, in the South African goal, however, closed down the angle well before pulling off a fine save.
The home team continued to dictate matters and Mohamed Bangura had another good scoring opportunity, but wasted it by shooting across the South African goal.
In the second half, Khune, who had a blinder, pulled off a stunning save to deny substitute Ibrahim Bangura.
Then, right at the death, Mohamed Bangura had a chance to snatch a win for Sierra Leone, but lacked composure and sent his shot flying high over the goals.
The draw means South Africa have lost only once in their last 16 matches, that defeat coming against semi-finalists Uruguay in the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Bafana's next qualifier is against champions Egypt in March 2011. A win would go a long way towards destroying the Pharaohs' challenge for a fourth successive title.
South Africa's next match, however, will be a friendly against world number 18 the USA in Cape Town on 17 November. Bafana's current ranking is 58th in the world.
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