Gambia held Bafana Bafana to a goalless draw in their opening AFCON 2017 qualifier played at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday evening. The start to the match was delayed by four hours after Madagascan match official arrived late in the coastal city. The Referee and his assistants were originally scheduled to arrive the day before, but instead only got to Durban at 16h00 Saturday afternoon.
The Orlando Pirates FC stricker Thamsanqa Gabuza, who was called up late for the squad after Tokelo Rantie became unavailable due to matrimonial commitments; missed an opportunity to break the deadlock from close range after being set up by Belgian based Ayanda Patosi.
Ayanda Patosi would have been disappointed with his own attempt as it was only eleven minutes after Gabuza’s miss that the 22 year old Lokeren left wing’s free-kick sailed just wide of the upright; as the Gambian goal-minder dealt with it the 20th minute.
Ephraim Mashaba’s game plan took a bit of a knock when Oupa ‘Ace’ Manyisa had to be replaced due to an injury he picked up, and Mandla Masango was brought on to replace him.
May Mahlangu who managed to find a place back in national team after a lifetime ban by SAFA was rescinded, tried to show his worth with a thunderous effort from 20-yards out which went wide of the upright just before they went into the half-time break 0-0.
The Shakes Mashaba’s side were undoubtedly stronger again in the second half, especially down the right flank where it was a 45 min episode of the “Thabo Matlaba Show.”
Though, the second half was laden with numerous chances especially in attack for Bafana Bafana, the Gambian defence remained composed, resolute and unshaken. Bafana seemed to be patient building from the back towards the end of the match, but nothing came of it as Gambia were happy to sit back and defend to put more frustration to the home side.
A chance fell for Matlaba to break the deadlock in the 78th minute but with the rush of blood, he blasted the ball high.
But it was Gambia who managed to carve their name in the great list of escapologists alongside Hudini and John Dillinger when Siphelele Ntshangase missed the opportunity to crown his first Bafana Bafana cap with a goal in the 88th minute as his shot went inches wide having beaten the offside trap.
Gambia had almost everyone at the back in the dying minutes of the game as they were happy to get away with a point away from home. Bafana Bafana had another chance in added time, but Patosi wasted the chance as the match remained goalless to the end.