Saturday, 12 November 2016

SENEGAL PAY THE PENALTY! Like a well-oiled machine, Bafana are firmly on the road to Russia

OUTRAGEOUS: Senegal players - and officials - were furious
when referee Joseph Lamptey gave handball for THIS, when
Idrissa Gana Gueye was clearly hit on the thigh 
THE defining moment of Bafana Bafana’s unexpected 2-0 win over the mighty Lions of Senegal on Saturday is not one to remember with any great pride.

It came after a tough 40 minutes for South Africa against a side packed with European stars on a muggy Polokwane afternoon. Eleazar Rodgers, who battled gamely throughout, dive-headed goalwards and quite clearly hit Senegal defender Idrissa Gueye on the thigh.

But this is where referee Joseph Lamptey and his mates earned that Moment of the Match award. With not a single appeal from Bafana, Lamptey pointed to the spot, awarding a quite unwarranted penalty to the home team. Replays show it went nowhere near that bandaged hand.

Even Mark Gleeson, the SuperSport commentator I grew up with in Clubview a million years ago, said: “Now that’s a hometown decision” before captain Tyson Hlatshwayo hit a tame penalty past Diallo, who got a hand to it.

Seconds later, with Senegal’s galaxy of EuroStars still stunned, Thulani Serero, Ajax Amsterdam’s non-playing midfielder, ran on to the ball as it left the box and the ball wriggled in to the corner.

After 40 minutes of admiring Senegal’s superior touch and distribution, Shakes Mashaba found himself with a 2-0 lead and a view of years of riches still to come. Not bad for a man who is constantly chided by SAFA president Danny Jordaan.

In direct defiance of his bosses (or some of them) Mashaba threw on Bradley Grobler, the 28-year-old SuperSport United striker in the second half, ignoring the man SAFA asked to come to South Africa for the first time in his life, Dutch-born Lars Veldwijk.

The 24-year-old, whose dad left South Africa aged 14, languished on the bench throughout, though his height - at 6ft 5in, just an inch smaller than our loftiest Tower Mathoho - might have helped.

Senegal fought back with substitute Ndoye scoring after a lengthy goal-mouth scramble featuring two goal-line blocks from Itumeleng Khune.

We should, we must, celebrate a victory over Senegal, now the second best side in Africa. Mashaba has us at 13 on the continent, these were three unexpected points, a real boost for the national squad after Mamelodi Sundowns equally unexpected African Champions League triumph.

Tiyani Mabunda, a surprise starter after his late call for the injured Dean Furman, said: "It wasn't easy in this game. I got a knock. It's nothing compared to what we've done for the nation.

"If this is what it takes to make the nation proud, I'm willing to go for it. The fans came out, they're signing gave us a push."

Mashaba, with his side now top of the qualifying group, said: "There's nothing else one can say. We are celebrating, we needed this win. Fans brought positive energy to the team. We should have scored four goals in this game if it was our lucky day.

"The two goals made life easy for us. They didn't expect us to score goals against them. I think we did very well.

"We always say to the boys, second half it's dangerous. Don't defend too deep. Senegal are too big, our back four did very well, Mathoho, Rivaldo.

"What about the match intelligence of the players individually? They did it. You don't need to be throwing the ball away. Fatigue took its toll. They were right on it, I'm telling you.

"This is one of the most hectic games they've played in their life."

He finished with: "Let me say to you, I've got to celebrate this win. My second lease of life. I was already buried. The media had bought a casket for me. We weren't given a chance."

All true of course. But somehow, it does’t feel right. The penalty, and several other decisions, appeared to go against the visitors. Senegal were clearly a technically superior side though, as South Africans know only too well, the well-paid foreign stars aren’t too good in such troubled situations.

We ended with Khune keeping Senegal out behind a shaky defence and going down injured as per the usual recipe. But the 2-1 lead stood until the final whistle.

Aliou Diouf, the Senegal coach, spent most of the game in a state of suspended disbelief, though Bafana fans may point to the opening game in Burkina Faso as another example of African refereeing at its finest.

My thoughts went back to that penalty-peppered 5-0 pre-World Cup win over Guatemala at the same Peter Mokabe ground in 2010. I said it at the time and it was confirmed later: match fixing, though the same people still run SAFA. Is it fair? Should we celebrate such an obvious case of dodgy refereeing?

Guess we have to. It won’t change. CAF can’t deal with lasers and flates, so referees and linesmen aren’t going to take any flak.

So congratulations Bafana Bafana. Good luck in Cape Verde. And Senegal. Months away (August 28 next year), but you may need it.

South Africa topped the group briefly but after Burkina Faso's 2-0 win over Cape Verde, here's Group D as it stands:

πŸ‡§πŸ‡« Burkina Faso 2 4
πŸ‡ΏπŸ‡¦South Africa 2 4
πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡³Senegal 2 3 πŸ‡¨πŸ‡»Cape Verde 2 0

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