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South Africa and Cote dí Ivoire play out an entertaining draw

South Africa U-23 side Amaglug-glug  and Cote d’ Ivoire played out a 1-1 draw in Marrakech on Sunday night.  In an entertaining match that had its fair share of drama, the two sides fought bravely for the three points at stake and there could have easily been a winner in this game.

Cote d’ Ivoire started off positively running a well structured and neat passing game. South Africa however countered the impressive football from the Ivoirians through sheer determined team work and the Amaglug-glug defended well as a pack frustrating the Ivorian moves and taking the sting out of them. Ivoirians Wakalible Lago and Moussa Kone were full of running and trickery and with Michael Seri Kevin Beugre and Joel Kouadio they dictated the game’ pace.

Against the run of play South Africa took the lead in the 21st minute courtesy of a well executed header by Ace Phumelele Bhengu. After some good work on the right flank Rodney Ramagalela delivered an inch perfect cross with his left foot and Bhengu ghosted in between two defenders to head past Ibrahim Kone in goal for Cote d Ivoire.  South had been thorough and workmen-like chasing down and standing form to the fluid and flowing moves of the Ivoirians.  With the goal Amaglug-glug grew in confidence and took over the dominance of possession although just slightly.  Whenever the Ivoirians threatened captain Mthetheleli Mxoyana , Erick Mathoho and Thulani Hlatshwayo stood firm assisting a robust midfield anchored by Tamsanga Sangweni.

Upon returning from the break, tough tackling Sangweni picked up a second yellow and South Africa was down to 10 men in the 52nd minute with so much football still to be played. The Ivoirians seized upon this scenario and mounted numerous attacks on South Africa goal. South African coach Ephraim Mashaba made changes to accommodate the dismissal and his charges though under immense pressure seemed to be hanging on until the 65th minute when Mathoho brought down Beugre in the box. The resultant penalty kick was taken by Seri but Brilliant Khuzwayo guessed right and saved the spot o preserve South Africa’s lead. The avalanche of Ivorian attacks kept coming as the minutes ticked away and South Africa defending for their lives. Khuzwayo was brilliant in performance as in name keeping the Ivoirians at bay. 

Then in the 81st minute substitute Henri Griffiths stab in an equalizer after Serge Deble had head back across goal one of the numerous balls delivered into SA penalty box.  There was time for a winner too as both sides went in search of the second goal. SA had a one on one which Kone saved while at the other end Cote d’ Ivoire also went close twice but in the end the first draw of the competition sufficed.

 Both teams were playing the first of their three group games of the inaugural U-23 African Championship which is also serving as the final qualifying tournament for London 2012 Olympics for Africa.

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