AFCON: Morroco ousted as South Africa make quarte finals

South Arica secured progress to the quarter-finals of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations with a 2-2 draw against Morocco in Durban.

The Moroccans made six changes to their starting line-up, choosing to use pace to attack the South Africans, as they were desperate for a win to progress ahead of the hosts.

If Bafana were over-confident after their Angola win, the early running by Morocco would have reminded them that they still had it all to do to progress to the quarter-finals. In the first five minutes South Africa were beaten for pace on a number of occasions. Early on El Arabi broke through ahead of Khune from a lifted ball. The Bafana keeper did seem a little slow to come forward at times. To his credit Khune usually bats the ball away, and did the same successfully in that instance.

Rantie gave the visitors some of their own medicine when he beat them for pace down the right. It seemed that Ahmed Kantari might have pulled his hand before falling, but the referee Gassama waved away the protest. The South African striker, who managed to pass his fitness test before the game, probably did fall too easily.

A minute later Khune missed a swerving corner kick, failing to dominate his area, the tall Issam El Adouarose to head home an easy opener for Morocco. From the replay it was not clear whether Khune or El Adoua had the last touch before the ball dropped in off the crossbar.

Literally another minute later, at the other end Thuso Phala was brought down in the penalty area. There was contact but again the South Africans were falling too easily. With the home side looking to move forward Morocco were not resting on their lead, and came close to adding a second. First, El Arabi saw his shot take a deflection that was well saved by Khune for a corner. The resulting set piece again troubled the South Africans as the goalscorer El Adoua won the header, but directed it slightly to the left of the post.

Bafana were relieved to survive the period of pressure, having one eye on the Cape Verde versus Angola game, as they would still progress if Cape Verde did not win. However, they were not relying on anyone, responding well with a number of spirited attacks before the half hour. 

Just before the break, Morocco caught the defence out, playing through Chafni who was clean through with acres of space, but this time Khune came off his line early enough to stop him in his stride outside the box.

The away team also started brighter in the second half, using their speed down the right. Barrada took the best shot of the game so far, unleashing a fizzing strike from distance which Khune did well to keep track of and gather without trouble. 

After 50 minutes, Igesund introduced his ace in the pack, the attacking midfielder Thulani Serero to make things happen, but striker Katlego Mphela had to make way. Immediately after that change Bafana showed what they were capable of in attack, with a wonderful free kick from Phala acrobatically saved by keeper Nadir Lamyaghri. Phala was again in the thick of the action, weaving his way down the right but the Moroccan defence stood strong.

Once again the Moroccans beat the slow Bafana defence for pace as El Arabi was clean through. This time Sangweni was at fault, misjudging a header. El Arabi chose to chip, but Khune came up with an outstanding save, swatting it away.

It was end to end stuff as Serero then tried his best to make an impression, shooting from just outside the box and Lamyaghri did well to gather. Though, Phala was Bafana’s most effective player and took a brilliant, curling free kick that was parried away for a corner.┬á

Poor communication at the back resulted in South Africa failing to clear the ball, and the Moroccans pushed men forward into the open space. The ball was slid through for Chafni who skied it over the bar. The visitors would pay for their missed opportunities, and once again Bafana took a shot from outside the box. This time Mahlangu playing a one-two with Rantie and then curling the ball beautifully into the top right corner of the net for the equaliser.

With 20 minutes to go the Moroccans were unsettled and Bafana were sensing a possible winner. Phala’s swerving free kick was almost met by captain Bongani Khumalo. Bernard Parker made way for┬áReneilwe Letsholonyane as Igesund was looking to stop the Moroccans in midfield late on. However, they do say the best way to defend is to attack, and Bafana went to sleep at the back with 10 minutes to go.

The Moroccans stretched the Bafana defenders to the corner flag, and then cut back a cross with very little cover in the box. Hafidi chested it down well, before firing in with his left leg across Khune. But, that was not the last statement of what proved to be an exciting game. Defender Sangweni ambitiously lurked forward, when a loose ball was pounced on by the Bafana midfield with sheer determination.

Sangweni chose to curl it around the keeper and when it hit the target you had to wonder if they have been practising these curled, long range strikes in training. Whatever the case, South Africa owe their undefeated record to these beauties and Sangweni is now Bafana’s leading scorer in the tournament with two goals.

That result sends South Africa top and Cape Verde second in Group A, with Bafana set to play the second place finisher in Group B, while the Islanders will clash with the team that finishes top in that same group.

by @prolixir.