Mali beat Bafana 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday night. The African nations were locked at 1-1 after extra-time.
South Africa started the game with midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane replacing striker Katlego Mphela, to protect the hosts' defense which wasn't as loose as it was against Morocco. The stronger midfield was also to counter a strong Mali midfield that included the likes of Mohamed Sissoko and Seydou Keita.
The latter showed his quality with a magnificently controlled snap-shot in the seventh minute that buzzed slightly over the bar. South Africa's Mahlangu made a powerful run down the left in the 11th minute, pulling it back for Letsholonyane who should have struck it sooner, but by the time he delayed and laid it for Parker, the Mali defense had already closed the gap.
Letsholonyane was again in the thick of the action, playing it through for Rantie but the Mali defender Tamboura tracked back and made the challenge. Nearly a carbon copy of that move, Mahlangu produced a beautiful through ball for Rantie who outpaced the Mali defense. Attempting to flick it over the keeper Diakite, there just wasn't enough space as he was closed down.
In the 24th minute Letsholonyane ventured further forward, and just when you expected him to produce another through ball he chose to hold onto it, dribbled excellently and eventually produced a better ball for Rantie. His effort deflected to Parker who's effort was blocked.
Mali's Tamboura used his pace down the left and let go a speculative shot that surprisingly dipped quite close under keeper Khune's bar. Mali was probably trying to get into the game, but this left them a little loose as Mahlangu found Phala just outside the box. The Mali defenders tried to stop him, but failed to track the run of Rantie to the right of the keeper. Phala found him and it was a simple tap in for Rantie to score the opening goal.
The goalscorer seemed to pull a muscle, and was forced to be replaced by Majoro with five minutes to go for the break. Sensing a disturbance, Samassa created Mali's best chance when the South Africans piled too many bodies into the box and failed to mark Sow lurking just outside. However Sow made a total mess of his shot, having the time to place his spot, he chose to hit it first time and miscued it poorly over the bar. Mali continued to seek an equalizer with spirited efforts but Dean Furman tracked back with some outstanding blocks.
This proved to be a very interesting midfield contest between a Bafana team expressing itself under less pressure and a Mali team with superior high-level experience. Sissoko picked up a knock in the 53rd minute, and was replaced by the more forward-thinking Mahamane Traoré. In the 58th Samassa was played down the left and crossed for Keita who was shockingly unmarked in the center to head down a simple equalizer. Bafana had been poor in the air against Morocco, but this was awful man-marking.
Samassa broke through down the left, easily beating the South African defence for pace but then Khune did very well to close him down and block the effort from an acute angle. Mali started the game slowly, but at this moment Bafana didn't have the answers to contend with them, needing to rediscover their form from the first 40 minutes. The home side were constantly troubled on their right hand side, remembering that Gaxa started his first game of the tournament here for the suspended Nconga.
The home side had taken long to rediscover their stride since Rantie's substitution, and was a little shaken that the visitors were dominating the midfield in the second half. Bafana finally awoke in the 79th minute when Mahlungu worked his way forward to play Majoro in. The Chiefs striker held the ball up before passing back for Mahlangu, who struck an excellent effort that was dangerously deflected toward goal, and well saved by Diakite.
Into extra time, Mali came close when Khune failed to deal with a free kick, but was fortunate that the loose ball went out without trouble. Legs tired for Letsholonyane and Masilela, but Parker's injury meant Igesund had to substitute him for Tshabalala. Bafana was more forward-thinking, but both teams defended in numbers and no clear-cut opportunities came through. So, penalties had to decide the game.
In the penalty shoot-out after Tshabalala and Diabete scored, Furman failed to score Bafana's second spot kick, which Diakite saved to his left. Diakite did it again from Mahlangu and the writing was on the wall with two misses by the hosts.
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