Bafana Bafana will head into their opening Africa Cup of Nations clash with Algeria brimming with confidence following a comfortable 3-0 win over Mali at Stade Monedan in Libreville, Gabon, on Wednesday afternoon.
A first-half header from Thulani Hlatshwayo was followed by second half strikes from Sibusiso Vilakazi and Dean Furman in what was the team’s final warm-up match before the continental showpiece kicks-off on Saturday.
Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba used the opportunity to rotate his 23-man squad, making six changes to the team that were held to a 1-1 draw by Cameroon last weekend.
Jackson Mabokgwane was handed his first start in goal, while Andile Jali was handed the captain’s armband for the first time in his career.
Bafana made a bright start with Thuso Phala, in particular, looking threatening on the ball.
A tame free-kick was followed by a half-chance from the SuperSport United winger, before a promising cross into the middle of the box almost saw the South Africans steal the lead inside 20 minutes.
Mali had their first taste for goal after the half-hour mark when Ahmed Doumbia put his shot wide of Mabokgwane, shortly after Doumbia first tested the Bafana defence with a well-worked move.
Five minutes later, however, Hlatshwayo powered Mashaba’s troops into the lead with a controlled headed finish from Mandla Masango’s free-kick just outside the area.
A perfect angle and delivery allowed Hlatshwayo to get his head to the ball before Mali could deal with the cross, handing South Africa the lead before the interval.
Mashaba would have felt the happier of the two coaches despite the goal aantage after Bafana were able to settle into their stride and control large parts of the game.
A livelier second half followed with both teams looking more expressive in attack.
Bongani Ndulula had a golden opportunity to double Bafana’s aantage on 63 minutes when he was put through on goal.
The AmaZulu star managed to round Mali’s last line of defence but was thwarted by a goal-line clearance with a solid toe-away from Mohammed Konate at the last minute.
Mabokgwane had a scare at the other end when Mustapha Yatabare hit the crossbar with his header from close-range, before Mohammed Traore shot wide when he looked likely to score.
Mashaba introduced Oupa Manyisa and Ayanda Gcaba, both adding pace and power to the flanks.
The result was put beyond doubt eight minutes from the end when Vilakazi kept his cool to find the back of the net.
Vilakazi rounded-off a move he played a major hand in and was sent through on goal by Ndulula, before rounding the goalkeeper and slotting home into an unmanned net.
Bafana were not done just yet. Furman added a third just two minutes later, scoring only his second goal for the national team to complete the rout of the Malians.
Furman burst through the Mali defence, who were looking deflated after the second goal, shooting straight at the goalkeeper, but keeping his composure to pick up the rebound and bundle over to seal an emphatic victory.
South Africa take on Algeria on Monday in Equatorial Guinea, before completing the tournament’s “group of death” – group C – against Senegal and Ghana.
Source : The Namibian