Dean Furman during the 2019 Nelson Mandela Challenge match between South Africa and Mali in Port Elizabeth, October 13 2019. Picture: RICHARD HUGGARD/GALLO IMAGES
Dean Furman during the 2019 Nelson Mandela Challenge match between South Africa and Mali in Port Elizabeth, October 13 2019. Picture: RICHARD HUGGARD/GALLO IMAGES

Port Elizabeth — Bafana Bafana gave new coach Molefi Ntseki the perfect start to his tenure in beating Mali 2-1 in the Nelson Mandela Challenge match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Sunday.

Port Elizabeth soccer fans braved the chilly weather to support the national team they had last seen in action in 2011 against Ivory Coast. And they were well rewarded.

A Dean Furman penalty and a well-taken goal from Themba Zwane enabled Ntseki’s charges to beat the West Africans in a tough encounter.

Mali’s lone striker Sekou Koita ensured a tense final passage of play when he skipped past SA’s defence to pull one back for the visitors in the 75th minute.

Bafana were happy to emerge victorious‚ albeit in a friendly‚ as their first meeting with Mali resulted in a 2-0 quarterfinal loss at the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon). They suffered another defeat to the West Africans at the same Afcon stage in 2013‚ with Mali claiming a victory via penalties after a 1-1 draw.

There was a 3-0 victory for SA in a warm-up match in Libreville before the 2015 Afcon‚ but there was no trophy on the line then.

On Sunday there was silverware on offer and it was Ntseki’s troops who got to hold it aloft, thanks to a decent enough performance.

Bafana have been struggling for game time after Zambia and Madagascar pulled out of scheduled friendlies due to xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg. Sunday’s game was Ntseki’s first official match as  Bafana coach after his appointed in August, when he took over from Stuart Baxter.

Both teams started off brightly looking for an early breakthrough.

Mali had the first shot on goal when Hadi Sacko hit a powerful strike from just outside the box eight minutes into the game but his attempt went straight into the hands of Bafana goalkeeper Ronwen Williams.

A little later‚ Mali’s defence was tested by Bradley Grobler but he shot wide. Bafana eventually scored through a penalty after Thulani Serero was brought down inside the box.

Furman sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to put Bafana in the lead 22 minutes into the game.

Mali fought hard to level matters but their attempts were fruitless.

Super sub Zwane‚ who replaced injured Keagan Dolly‚ scored the second goal for Bafana after he received a pass from Thembinkosi Lorch. Zwane put it in the net having only been on the field for a few minutes.

Bafana went into the break leading 2-0 and they picked up from where they left off in the second half, but Mali were far from finished and scored after Koita fought his way through the Bafana defence to beat goalkeeper Darren Keet‚ who had replaced Williams.

Bafana played without forwards Lebo Mothiba and Percy Tau after team doctor Thulani Ngwenya had on Thursday confirmed that the latter was available for selection.

“This has been one of the most difficult camps in terms of injuries and while we have done the best we can to get all the players ready for this important match‚ it is unfortunate that Lebo and Percy failed a late fitness test and thus cannot be part of the match day squad‚” a SA Football Association statement said.

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