Nigeria beat Bafana to Mandela crown
DURBAN - Substitute Uche Nwafor bagged a brace to help an efficient Nigeria ease to a 2-0 victory over Bafana Bafana in the Nelson Mandela Challenge at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Wednesday.
The Dutch-based striker, who was only introduced at half-time, scored in the 49th and 68th minutes to ensure the hosts missed out on the trophy -- played in honour of the former president -- for a fourth straight year.
Gordon Igesund's men looked average for most parts of the game against the African champions, who fielded just a handful of players that featured at the continental showpiece they won in South Africa earlier this year.
The team from west Africa started out stronger with John Ogu lashing a shot over early on, while Nnamdi Oduamadi almost capitalised on some lax defending by Thabo Nthethe after 10 minutes -- the Bloemfontein Celtic defender failed to clear a Ogenyi Onazi long ball forcing Itumeleng Khune to rescue the danger.
South Africa's first real sight at goal came courtesy of Tshepo Masilela, who curled ambitiously over a quarter of an hour into the clash, before Elderson Echiejile thumped Sunday Mba's left-side cross acrobatically over.
At the other end, Siphiwe Tshabalala had the best chance of the game midway through the half, but arrived milliseconds late to try and divert Bernard Parker's cross-goal pass into an empty goal.
Not to be outdone, the Super Eagles had their best moment in the 26th minute when Ogu's cracking 30-yard strike had the beating of Khune, but not the left upright.
Obinna Nsofor was next to come close for the visitors when his shot bounced awkwardly in front of the home goalkeeper, who had to block with his body.
Four minutes before the interval Spain-based Ogu unleashed another rasping shot that forced Khune to acrobatically save to his right.
Moments later Tokelo Rantie twisted and turned away from his marker on the right side of the box, only to shoot wide.
It was goalless at the break and after the restart Nigeria introduced more of their Afcon winners, including Chelsea forward Victor Moses.
But it was the hosts that almost went ahead when Parker's free-kick caused mayhem in the Nigeria penalty area, allowing Eric Mathoho to send his overhead kick towards he top corner until Austine Ejide managed to tip the ball wide.
Nigeria then went in front thanks to a clever finish by Nwafor, who capitalised on the ball falling to him four yards out after Masilela's tackle on Oduamadi.
Free State Stars winger Luyolo Nomandela was thrown on for his debut and Igesund's first change on the hour, prompting a spring of excitement in attack, where Reneilwe Letsholonyane twice punted over from promising positions.
The home side were made to pay for those misses as a slick passing moving by all three substitutes lead to Nigeria's second goal when Moses on the right slid in Ahmed Musa, who in turn squared for VVV Venlo striker Nwafor to tap in.
With 15 minutes to play, replacement Lerato Chabangu arrowed agonisingly over, as did Parker and sub Lebogang Manyama as the half-filled Moses Mabhida Stadium went home disappointed.