South Africa’s Men’s Under-17 National Team played to a thrilling 1-1 draw against their arch-rivals Mali in an international friendly match at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Sunday afternoon. The match which was played as a curtain raiser to the Bafana Bafana versus Nigeria game had all the excitement, top quality football and the 1-1 draw was a fair reflection of the how the two sides went at each other. Mali beat Amajimbos 2-0 in the final of the CAF U-17 African Youth championships in Niger last month and Molefi Ntseki and his charges were gunning for some sort of revenge.
Mali, using its imposing physique was the better side for most parts of the first half but could not breach the Amajimbos backline well marshalled by goalkeeper Walter Kubheka as the two teams went to the half-time break deadlocked. But there was little Kubheka could have done to deny Sekou Keita the opening goal for the visitors after some sweeping counter-attacks initiated from the right which left the entire Amajimbos defence in sixes and sevens. South Africa immediately fashioned great moves soon after this setback although in most cases, they found the big Malians uncompromising.
Amajimbos duly equalised in the 78th minute through Luvuyo Mkhatshana whose header was from the top drawer to make it 1-1. The industrious striker received a delicate pass from the left and responded by planting his perfect header past the Malian keeper. Thereafter, it was one-way traffic as Amajimbos galloped forward looking for the winner but time ran out as the match ended in a deserved draw for both teams.