Host nation's relief as SAfrica beats Angola 2-0
A vastly improved South Africa scored in each half to beat Angola 2-0 at the African Cup of Nations on Wednesday, giving the host nation huge relief and reviving Bafana Bafana's chances of making the quarterfinals.
Home fans were lifted from near the depths of despair when defender Siyabonga Sangweni netted with a volley from a tight angle in the 30th minute, easing the crushing pressure on coach Gordon Igesund and his team.
Substitute Lehlohonolo Majoro then sneaked a shot through Angola goalkeeper Lama's legs in the 62nd for a vital cushion in the Group A game at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Apart from a third-minute scare, when Angola's Mateus Da Costa flashed an early shot at Itumeleng Khune's goal, South Africa had the majority of the play in Durban.
''The guys stood up and were counted today, every single one of them,'' Igesund said.
Sangweni's sweet volley after a loose defensive header and Majoro's skillful second also allowed South Africa to rid itself of Saturday's awful performance in the tournament opener as Igesund made five changes and went for broke after a nervous and impotent showing at Soccer City.
''I told them, if they don't want to believe in themselves, I believe in what they're doing,'' Igesund said. ''Today I took a big risk. I played with almost five strikers.''
Initially fearing another depressing performance, home fans ended the game singing and dancing and launched themselves into Mexican waves at the seaside venue.
Just four days ago, South Africa's lack of attacking intent in its dreadfully limp 0-0 draw with tournament debutant Cape Verde had the country desperately gloomy.
Home fans groaned again at the sellout 56,000-seat Moses Mabhida when Da Costa forced Khune to scramble to his right to get a slight deflection on a teasing low shot early on.
But after that, South Africa impressed its authority on a disappointing Angola team for much of the remaining 87 minutes - although Angola coach Gustavo Ferrin had real problems with what he called ''poor refereeing.''
''We knew that it was going to be difficult because of all the pressure behind this game,'' he said through an interpreter. ''I believe that South Africa has got enough capacity to win it (the game) by itself, therefore we don't understand why they had to be pushed.''
Sangweni connected with a good low volley for the opening goal and first of Group A after a header from Lunguinha sent the ball looping into the air.
In the second half, Majoro picked up possession out on the left and jinked his way to the byline, and then back infield to deceive defenders and Lama for the second, allowing South African fans to wildly celebrate.
Igesund started with a new striker partnership and two new central midfielders in Durban, including Oldham's Dean Furman, who ran the game in a man-of-the-match performance and nearly scored himself with a low curving shot that Lama just got fingertips to.
''We know what the nation's expecting,'' Furman said. ''We want to give them a team to be proud of. This is just a start.''
Recalled center forward Katlego Mphela troubled Angola's defense for much of the game, allowing Thuso Phala, new striker Tokelo Rantie and Bernard Parker space to threaten regularly.
Angola's best chance of the second half came when Da Costa pulled a cross back for Guilherme Afonso in the 52nd but his powerful low shot went straight at Khune.
South Africa could have even added a third in a hugely different and far more positive display when Majoro attempted a lob from the edge of the penalty area with a minute to go and it drifted just over the crossbar.
''The problem was within us because we were a bit nervous,'' Angola captain Manucho said.