Home Sport Brave Bafana go down fighting in close Afcon qualifier

Brave Bafana go down fighting in close Afcon qualifier

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Having taken an early lead in the first half, Bafana Bafana conceded two second half goals as they went down to Morocco in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Thursday.

Ilias Chair of Morocco attempts to get through the South African defence during their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying football match at the Stade Prince Moulay Abdallah in Rabat, Morocco on Thursday
Ilias Chair of Morocco attempts to get through the South African defence during their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying football match at the Stade Prince Moulay Abdallah in Rabat, Morocco on Thursday. Picture: Nour Akanja, BackpagePix

Johannesburg — Bafana Bafana started their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers on a sour note after they were beaten 2-1 by Morocco at a packed Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium on Thursday night.

With no points to their name, Bafana will need to win in their next Group K qualifier against Liberia if they are going to qualify for the finals in the three-team group following the ban on Zimbabwe.

For much of the second half, Bafana looked destined to at least salvage a point after some heroic goalkeeping from captain Ronwen Williams in the game before Ayoub El Kaabi pounced with a late winner.

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With only skipper and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, Bafana were expected to produce an improved performance tonight.

But they’d have had to dig deep, given that they had three debutants – Siphephelo Sithole, Grant Kekana and Taariq Felies. A feat that required a reconstruction of combinations in a major qualifier.

Bafana had a nervy start, though, with the Atlas Lions pinning them against their box as they were looking to exploit the pocket of spaces, attacking through the side of left back Lyle Lakay early on.

Despite averting the pressure, Bafana didn’t quite take the game to Morocco in the first five minutes as they were denied from their tracks or judged for being in illegal positions.

ALSO READ: Morocco vs South Africa: Here’s what you need to know

But Hugo Broos’ men pounced when Morocco and their ultras least expected them to. Sithole unleashed a weighted pass from the midfield that found a loose Lyle Foster who was heavily marked.

Foster, though, did well to latch on the pass before creating space for himself to unleash a low and hard shot past Yassine Bounou. That goal sent the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium into complete silence.

As the Moroccans were stunned, Bafana’s nerves settled for a little bit. But that was before Morocco rediscovered their groove as they made dangerous forays into the South Africans’ final third.

But just as he did against France, Williams was Bafana’s the knight in shining armour. He denied Youssef En-Nesyri’s pin-point header with a well-timed save after a weighted cross from the flank.

Williams and Youssef were again involved in a one-on-one duel after the latter got at the of a defence splitting pass before picking his spot to force out a one-handed save from the Bafana No. 1.

The progression of the first half saw Achraf Hakimi continuing to run the rule over Lakay who was porous and out of position as Morocco were gaining immense momentum in search of an equaliser.

The hosts continued to exert pressure on Bafana’s defence, but they were either let down by their poor finishing or top tier saves from Williams, who also denied Hakimi an equaliser before the break.

The Atlas Lions were denied a clear penalty early in the second half after the ball struck the arm of Felies. But they’d soon make up for that as En-Nesyri equalised to send the venue into a frenzy.

Sofian Amrabat whipped in a diagonal cross that found Ghanem Saiss on the end of the box as he headed the ball behind Bafana’s defence where a lurking, unmarked En-Nesyri easily headed home.

The momentum of the game may have dipped in the second half, but that allowed Bafana to see more of the ball, although they were not convincing in their pressing as they failed to threaten the Atlas Lions defence.

Late in the game, Williams pulled off another save from Kaabi header, before the substitute pounced with a well taken volley that stunned Bafana who began the road to Ivory Coast next year with a loss.

@Mihlalibaleka

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