Bafana Bafana were held to a disappointing goalless draw by unheralded Gambia in their opening Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday evening. In a match whose kick off time was moved from 15:00 to 19:00 following the non-arrival of two match officials, the home team were expected to win comfortably. But the West Africans had other ideas as they packed the backline and midfield relying mostly on swift counter-attacks.
On the other end, Bafana Bafana only started to fashion some real dangerous attacks late in the game but a combination of poor finishing and some dodged defence by the visitors meant the match ended in a stalemate. Thamsanqa Gabuza could have made a dream start in the Bafana Bafana colours but after being put through, was foiled by the Gambian goalkeeper Modou Jobe on the eighth minute. Oupa Manyisa then tested Jobe again on the 15th minute as Bafana began to ask real questions.
Ayanda Patosi who was making a welcome return to the national team colours saw his long range free-kick hit the upright and out for a corner in South Africa’s best chance on the 19th minute. Oupa Manyisa was then forced to make way for Mandla Masango after picking an injury and moments later Gambia threatened from a corner kick. However, Itumeleng Khune saved the day.
The second half started in the same fashion with Gambia seating back and waiting for opportunities on counter-attacks. A few minutes into the second period, Gambia galloped forward in one of their famous swift counter-attack but the end product was poor as the dangerous-looking ball sailed over the bar. Thuso Phala who came in as a second half substitute then pushed the ball into the hands of Jobe following a powerful shot by Patosi.
Moments later Matlaba blasted his effort over the bar from a very promising position as the visitors began to believe they could salvage something from the match. As Bafana Bafana piled on the pressure, both Patosi and Anele Ngcongca missed some gilt-edged chances before Mandla Masango’s effort went for a corner. Ntshangase then curled another attempt tantalisingly wide with the crowd on their feet thinking it was a goal as the match ended in a disappointing draw.