Bafana Bafana got their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations(Afcon) tournament off to a bad start after they were defeated 2-0 by Mali in their opening match at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium on Tuesday night.
South Africa are now anchoring Group E from the bottom after the first round of matches.
In the other Group E match played earlier, Namibia caused one of the tournament’s biggest upsets when they nailed Tunisia 1-0, after a last gasp goal by Orlando Pirates midfielder Deon Hotto with a minute remaining on the clock.
Against all odds, the Brave Warriors are second on the group with three points while Bafana are sitting on zero points.
South Africa started brightly and after the two sides were done sussing each other out, Amadou Haidara drew a great save out of Ronwen Williams who gobbled up the midfielder’s long-range missile in the 10th minute.
The Gods smiled on Bafana as they were given a fortuitous penalty by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) after striker Evidence Makgopa was elbowed on the face by Sikou Niakite inside the penalty box in an off the ball incident.
The Egyptian referee Mohamed Elsaid Hussien was summoned by the VAR and he pointed to the spot, giving Niakite a yellow card in the process.
Bafana’s vice-captain Percy Tau stepped up for the spot kick, but his shot flew over the crossbar, much to the disappointment of the supporters and coach Hugo Broos. Tau and his teammates were to later regret that penalty miss.
Moments later, Tau was seeking redemption when he broke free and unleashed a powerful shot that was blocked by Mali goalkeeper Diarra Djigui.
Tau was again in the thick of things when he headed wide a Khuliso Mudau’s cross from the right.
SA survived a late scare when Williams stopped Lassine Sinayoko’s goal bound shot after he sneaked past sleepy Bafana defender Siyanda Xulu.
In the second half, Haidara was gifted with a golden opportunity, but the RB Leipzig player missed the target with the goalposts wide open.
Mali captain Hamari Traore grabbed the opening goal on the hour mark when he pounced and scored from the rebound after Sekou Koita’s sublime free kick was parried back into play by Williams.
Six minutes later, the west Africans increased their lead to 2-0 through the boot of Sinayoko who powered past the SA rearguard and drilled the ball into the net.
Sensing a spanking Broos made double substitution when he replaced Makgopa and Themba Zwane with Zakhele Lepasa and Mihlali Mayambela respectively, but it was not to be as they huffed and puffed towards the end.
Bafana will face neighbours Namibia in their next group match on Sunday.