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Matlaba shows SA players the way

The prevailing theme I took from Bafana’s win over the Central African Republic was one of progression. The team under the guidance of Gordon Igesund is improving with each game, which is most pleasing to see.

However, it was far from the perfect performance. After Bafana had scored the first goal, I felt that just after halftime the team decided to sit back. The hosts therefore invited trouble until Bernard Parker scored the second goal, which put the result beyond doubt.

If Itumeleng Khune hadn’t been on top of his game, Bafana could well have been punished.

In future, I would advise the team to consolidate possession in the midfield rather than going into a defensive mode. To some degree, I believe the side showed a bit of naivety until they scored the second goal - after which they duly dominated the closing stages of play.

I agree Bafana could easily have won the game 5-0 and missed a hatful of chances. While they won the game, which was the main objective, I felt the team missed a real chance to make a strong statement ahead of their away fixture against CAR in June.

I believe our lack of ruthlessness at times in front of goal can be attributed to a lack of composure and belief. Bafana need more players like Thabo Matlaba, who aren’t afraid to back their ability.

The left-back was deservedly named man of the match but during the 90 minutes I couldn’t help thinking that he may have been even better utilised on the left wing or as left-sided midfielder.

In a South African context, in particular, it is quite rare for a player to have the ability to shoot and score off either foot. It’s no real surprise that he is reportedly attracting the interest of teams in Germany and Spain.

While I felt the new-look back four were composed and for the large part solid, I was disappointed with May Mahlangu’s performance in the midfield.

While there was some neat combination play in the middle of the park, I believe Mahlangu needs to release the ball earlier. You don’t want to take away one of his main strengths, which is his dribbling, but he needs to realise you cannot dribble past four players. Once you have dribbled past two players, lay it off to a teammate, get it back and then dribble again.

I don’t know his mentality but do hope that he’s not one of those players who get too ahead of themselves after a few great performances.

There were a few flashpoints in the game. I thought Bafana were fortuitous not to concede a penalty when Morgan Gould went in with a high boot in the area. There is no doubt the home side got away with it on that occasion.

To be honest, I felt the officiating was really poor. On three or four occasions the linesman flagged for offside when it clearly wasn’t. In one instance the player was as many as three yards onside.

The handball incident was also really poor as the referee couldn’t see it so needed to rely on his linesman. He took a long time before finally advising the referee to disallow the goal.

Post-match the CAR caretaker coach Herve Lougoundji was irate that the Bafana players had approached the linesman to protest but how can you dispute whether that was a handball? Does he expect the Bafana players to stand there and keep quiet? I think their coach was just looking for points as I believe his players would have responded in exactly the same fashion.

While the nation would have been buoyed by Bafana’s 2-0 win, which saw them briefly top Group A, Ethiopia’s 1-0 win over Botswana at the death would have somewhat spiked celebrations.

Igesund’s men will now be aware that there is even greater importance to earn a positive result away from home. If they can beat CAR and draw with Ethiopia, I believe Bafana will be in a strong position in their group.

The Absa Premiership swings back into gear following the international break, and you never quite know how teams are going to respond to the brief hiatus.

A point of concern in the PSL is that Bernard Parker is the leading goal scorer with ten strikes. Taking into account that he scored four of those goals in one game and it’s clear to see it’s not just the national team who lack ruthlessness in front of goal.

In other league around the world at this stage of the season, top goal scorers are approaching the 20-goal mark, which equates to at least a goal a game.

There are a number of intriguing matchups approaching in the PSL.

On Friday Ajax host AmaZulu. The latter are coming off consecutive wins, but the Cape side are desperate to avoid the playoff relegation threat. Ajax would be best advised to take the game to their visitors and use their pace to get in behind AmaZulu’s defence.

On Saturday the Buccaneers welcome AmaTuks to the FNB Stadium. While AmaTuks will come out firing, Pirates must just play their natural game to gain victory. They must look to get wide and penetrate Tuks’ backline at pace. I’m tipping Pirates to shade this match.

The pick of the PSL fixtures on Sunday sees Celtic hosting Chiefs in a preview of their Nedbank Cup quarterfinal.

The Glamour Boys must approach this match with the mindset of chasing a win. While they will be aware that a draw will do, it’s not in Chiefs’ makeup to settle for second best.

They must score early on in order to keep Celtic at arm’s length and their fans a little quieter – though that is never an easy task.

While it will by no means be a comfortable win for Chiefs, I’m backing them to grab all three points.

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