Bafana Bafana missed out on the chance to book their spot at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations after playing to a 1-1 draw against Nigeria at the FNB Stadium on Saturday afternoon, writes MARSHALL GOUTS.
Stuart Baxter’s side went into the clash knowing that victory against the Super Eagles would secure their ticket to next year’s continental showdown.
The home side played to a disappointing goalless draw against Seychelles in their last qualifier, while Nigeria beat Libya 3-2 in their most recent clash.
Nigeria started the match like a house on fire, signalling their intent to attack from the first whistle. It came as no surprise when the visitors took the lead in the ninth minute when a cross into the Nigerian area took a wicked deflection off Buhle Mkhwanazi to creep in past Itumeleng Khune.
South Africa almost went level immediately from the restart when Themba Zwane found Percy Tau in the area, but the former Mamelodi Sundowns man was unable to fire his shot away following close attention from his marker.
Baxter’s side continued to edge closer to the opener and almost found it in the 12th minute, but defender Thamsanqa Mkhize opted to pass the ball in the area, when a shot seemed a more viable option.
Bafana were not to be denied in the 27th minute when Tau unselfishly laid the ball off to strike partner Lebo Mothiba after mesmerising the Nigerian defence.
The home side were guilty of becoming complacent and were almost punished minutes before half-time when they needlessly gave away the ball, but Kelechi Ihenacho’s first touch let him down, much to the joy of the home side’s fans.
Nigeria upped their tempo in the second half in search of the lead once again, but a mixture of resolute defending and wasteful finishing saw the scorelines remain level.
Orlando Pirates attacker Thembinkosi Lorch was the first substitution of the game when he was introduced on the hour mark for the ineffective Thulani Serero.
Nigeria made their first change in the 69th minute when Isaac Success was brought on in a bid to restore the lead.
Nigeria should have gone ahead with five minutes left on the clock, but Ahmed Musa was flagged for offside, with the call agonisingly marginal.
In the end, neither side were able to add to their tally with the two sides forced to share the spoils. The result sees Nigeria book their spot at next year’s showdown in Cameroon, with Bafana needing victory in the final game against Libya to guarantee their ticket.
Photo: Gallo Images
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