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Victory eludes Bafana in Johannesburg

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By PJ Van Rooyen

Johannesburg - A second-half Collins Mbesuma strike handed Africa Cup of Nations champions Zambia a 1-0 victory over Bafana Bafana in the 18th edition of the Nelson Mandela Challenge at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Wednesday night.

Bafana skipper Bongani Khumalo celebrated his 30th cap for the country, while Igesund suffered his first defeat to African opposition since taking over from Pitso Mosimane in July.

The visitors were in with the first chance, after Isaac Chansa rocketed an effort towards goal, but the shot was steered clear by South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, who kept the scores level seven minutes into the tie.

With a lack of scoring opportunities and a frustrating opening 25 minutes, Igesund made an early substitution, as Tokelo Rantie was replaced by Katlego Mashego, after Rantie was hurt in a challenge deep in Zambia's half.

In a quiet opening period, with half chances falling to Bernard Parker, Ricardo Nunes and Sifiso Myeni, Zambia made inroads in the Bafana defence, but failed to string final passes, with Khune ever watchful at the back.

The second half started brightly for Bafana, who were in with an early chance, as Kermit Erasmus found Mashego with a neat ball over the top, before Mashego had a narrow miss, clipping the top of the net on its way over.

Five minutes later, Mashego was in with another chance, as a free-flowing Bafana move started by Erasmus found Lerato Chabangu on the left flank, who whipped in a dangerous delivery into the six-yard area, but Mashego blasted over from close range.

The game looked to have entered a lull, but Zambia came through and took the incentive shortly after the hour mark, with the opener coming in the 64th minute.

The Zambian midfield held onto the ball and put together a series of short, quick passes before Orlando Pirates' Mbesuma was allowed to turn on the ball inside South Africa's area and drilled his effort past Khune, high into the net, past a helpless Khune.

Having fallen behind, the hosts pushed more players up in attack, which looked to be paying off, after second half replacement Thuso Phala saw his audacious effort saved by Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, keeping Chipolopolo ahead with a quarter of the match left.

The South Africans were kept under pressure by their visitors and lacked the final touches in the Zambian half, resulting in a disjointed attack when they were allowed forward movement, while the Zambian defence mopped up any loose balls.

With 30 seconds of regulation time remaining, Erasmus came agonisingly close, but was thwarted by Mweene, who made a spectacular save to deny what looked like a certain equaliser.

Mashego was on hand for the rebound, but failed to make his chip count, as the ball went over the bar, wrapping up a frustrating evening in front of goal for Bafana.

The playing surface had recovered in time after fears that the field would not be ready, with American band Linkin Park having performed at the weekend.

The ground staff recovered a corner of the pitch that had been damaged by heavy rainfall during Saturday's concert, though patches of worn grass remained, particularly on one side of the field.

A strip in front of the goal, on South Africa's side in the first half, was covered with sand and grass shavings. - Sapa

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