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Bafana Earn Hard-Earned Point In Nigeria

Bafana Bafana earned a point away as they and Nigeria drew 1-1 in their World Cup Group C game at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo on Friday night.

Group C has been thrown wide open after this week’s results, with Rwanda, who were the group leaders before these fixtures, losing 1-0 to Benin on Thursday. Lesotho moved above Rwanda after beating Zimbabwe 2-0 on Friday afternoon.

So there was a lot to play for in Uyo, as Finidi George took charge of the Super Eagles for the first time in a competitive fixture. The Nigerians, who were early favourites to win Group C, had drawn both their opening qualifiers, against Lesotho and Zimbabwe, while Hugo Broos’ team started with a win over Benin, before a shock loss away to Rwanda.

Those games were played over six months ago and before Nigeria finished as runners-up at the AFCON, and Bafana finished third.

Buoyed on by partisan home support, the Super Eagles looked to apply early pressure. Ademola Lookman tried a shot in the 8th minute, but his attempt went high and wide.

But Bafana were keeping their shape well and a swift attack by Percy Tau a minute later led to a good opportunity for Teboho Mokoena, who fired in a powerful shot from outside the area which Stanley Nwabali saved, and unfortunately, Iqraam Rayners was off-sides for the follow-up.

Tau was causing problems and won a free kick in a dangerous area in the 15th minute, and Mokoena went close again from the set piece, with his shot brushing the crossbar. Moments later Elias Mokwana broke free but after doing the hard work, went down easily in the box.

It was end-to-end action, with both teams looking for that opening, and it was the magic of Themba Zwane that broke the deadlock, as South Africa’s number 11 combined well in the build-up with both Aubrey Modiba then Yaya Sithole (with a great through ball for the assist) before showing composure to beat two defenders and fire in past Nwabali; Zwane’s 12th goal for Bafana making it 1-0 to South Africa in the 29th minute.

Bafana were on the attack again in the 35th minute, but this time Nwabali rushed off his line to deny Khuliso Mudau, and the Nigerian defence were able to clear behind. Mokwana could have doubled the lead in the 39th minute, after Zwane set him up delightfully, but he couldn’t direct his shot on target, and it went just wide.

A long-range attempt from Wilfred Ndidi in the 41st minute was straight at Ronwen Williams who saved comfortably. Williams was called into action again a minute later, this time needing to make a good save to deny Paul Onuachu’s header.

At the end of an action-packed first half, Zwane’s goal was the difference.

It did not take long for Nigeria to draw level in the second half, and within two minutes of the kickoff, the Super Eagles robbed Bafana of possession and struck. Faruq Dele-Bashiru turned Mothobi Mvala on the edge of the area, and his powerful effort left Williams with no chance.

Bafana had another chance via Mokwana in the 57th minute, but his final effort was miss-kicked and Nwabali was left with an easy save

The action flowed from one end to the other, as both teams looked for the go-ahead goal. Lyle Foster made his long-awaited return to the Bafana, coming on for Iqraam Rayners for the final 20 minutes.

Williams made a save at close range to deny Samuel Bright in the 72nd minute, while Alex Iwobi’s attempt a minute later was wayward. 

Tau had a great chance in the 73rd minute after being set up by another substitute Oswin Appollis, but Tau couldn’t get a proper shot off and Nwabali gathered easily. A minute later Alhassan Yusuf went close at the other end, but his shot hit the crossbar.

Bafana missed a good chance through over-elaboration in the 78th minute, but with the goal beckoning, players passed instead of taking a shot, before Sithole’s effort was blocked. 

Some good defending denied Lookman as his shot was blocked in the 81st minute, as the Nigerians buoyed on by their fans looked for a winner.

Lookman was denied again by Mudau in the 86th minute and had another chance a few seconds later but shot wide.

The Nigerian star was looking for that goal, but Williams pulled off a great save to deny Lookman in stoppage time, as he tried to curl it past the South African captain. Williams did brilliantly again moments later to clutch the ball at an incoming Terem Moffi’s feet.

There were late half-chances for both teams, but neither were able to get the winner, and points were shared in Uyo.

After three (of ten) games, South Africa are currently one point behind Lesotho, but in fourth spot, while Nigeria are on three points, in fifth place.

Bafana are back in action on Tuesday when they host Zimbabwe in Bloemfontein. Nigeria face Benin away on Monday.

Rob Delport
Rob Delport
Rob Delport is a walking football encyclopedia, having been a mainstay in the Cape Town football scene for years. Rob has previously worked for SABC and various websites and publications across Africa, as well as being the South African Head Researcher for Football Manager and doing a similar role occasionally for EA Sports FIFA. Highly respected, Rob is now a senior iDiski Times website and newspaper writer, and is also responsible for the newspaper's editorial.