Sydney – Bafana Bafana held their own against a determined Australia, playing out to a 1-1 draw in an international friendly at ANZ Stadium, in Sydney, on Monday evening.
“We both had chances and I think the score was a fair reflection of the game,” coach Gordon Igesund said.
“We conceded a goal we shouldn’t have. But the game was played in the right spirit. I think we deserved to get something out of the game and we did.”
Ayanda Patosi opened the scoring after 13 minutes with a classy finish, but saw his goal cancelled out by an unfortunate own goal from South African defender Erick Mathoho, who mistimed a goal-line clearance and buried the ball into the back of the net.
The game was the first on tour for the South Africans, which includes a friendly international against New Zealand on Friday.
Written off as a second-string side before kick-off, Igesund’s youngsters put up a decent performance in front of a 50 000-strong Sydney crowd.
Bafana looked good in patches and dampened much of the home supporters’ spirits, who came out in numbers to bid farewell to the Socceroos, who played their final game before they jet off to Brazil on Wednesday for the FIFA World Cup, starting on June 12.
The hosts started brightly and had early chances stifled by Senzo Meyiwa in goal, who was forced to make a couple of brilliant stops, including a reflex save off the line to deny Matthew Leckie in the eighth minute.
Bafana managed to soak up the pressure and five minutes later, Patosi rounded-off a move he started inside his own half.
Somewhat against the run of play, Patosi surged forward along the right flank, before laying off to Thulani Serero, who in turn threaded a fine pass through to Tokelo Rantie.
Rantie did some good work in the area but was dispossessed and an advancing Patosi curled in his effort, slotting into the side of the net.
The South Africans’ celebrations, however, were short-lived and less than 90 seconds later, the home side drew level, benefiting from a clumsy clearance on the line from Mathoho, who found the roof of the net in the process.
“Although they had quite a bit of possession in the right areas, we allowed them that possession and they never penetrated us,” Igesund said.
Australia were all over their visitors after the equaliser and had two further chances go begging after 20 minutes, as Bafana’s passes went astray and their defence wilted under heavy strain.
Level at the break, Bafana had a much better start to the second period which saw Patosi flash narrowly wide of the mark a minute into the half. For Australia, Leckie dragged wide before the hour mark.
South Africa enjoyed their best period an hour into the clash, with a number of promising interchanges going a long way to erase some clumsy passing in the opening 45 minutes.
The teams settled into a canter with 20 minutes left to play, but Bafana seemed to hold on to possession and were able to pay regular visits into the opposition territory, while still looking shaky at the back.
Australia, who are yet to whittle their World Cup squad down from its current 30 to the final 23, withdrew key players like Tim Cahill and Leckie from the field, giving the rest of the squad an opportunity to test their fitness and stake their claim in front of coach Ange Postecoglou.
“They (South Africa) were very desperate in their defending. They gave us a good game tonight, so in terms of a contest, it was a good contest,” Postecoglou said.
“I can’t be too critical of my players. The goal we conceded was poor decision-making. This game was part of the process for us.
“We have two more games in Brazil to be ready for our first World Cup game against Chile.”
In the end, the teams matched each other in most departments, but a worry for Igesund remained in South Africa’s lack of composure in possession and regular gifting of the ball to their opposite numbers.