Tuesday Oct 17, 2023. 23:08
Africa Cup of Nations hosts Ivory Coast were held to a 1-1 draw by South Africa in an international friendly in Abidjan on Tuesday evening.
In a match which had the intensity and pace of a competitive fixture, Bafana Bafana claimed an early lead via Themba Zwane, but the Elephants – who enjoyed far more possession and attacking pressure through the 90 minutes – equalised via Sebastien Haller midway through the second half.
Ivory Coast bossed the early stages, but South Africa soon found an attacking rhythm and scored a beautiful opening goal in the eighth minute, with Mamelodi Sundowns midfielders Teboho Mokoena and Themba Zwane combining beautifully to see the latter fire a shot into the top corner for 1-0.
Shortly thereafter it was almost 2-0, as Zwane teed up Bongokuhle Hlongwane to shoot from the edge of the box, and his low drive was well saved by Ivory Coast goalkeeper Yahia Fofana.
The Elephants reclaimed control of the game and began building attacking pressure, with Sebastien Haller almost equalising on 27 minutes when he headed just over the crossbar from Ghislain Konan’s left-wing cross.
Bafana survived a major scare on the half-hour mark when Mothobi Mvala was caught in possession in his own penalty area, allowing Haller to lob goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, but the striker’s effort hit the frame of the goal and was cleared to safety.
The hosts kept up the pressure through the remainder of the first half, and almost levelled the game early in the second when Seko Fofana saw his low shot turned away by Williams.
Bafana should have doubled their lead in the 53rd minute when a brilliant counter attack put Khuliso Mudau in on goal, but his low effort neither found the bottom corner nor allowed the on-rushing Lebo Mothiba what should have been a tap-in.
Three minutes later Mothiba controlled a pass over his shoulder and shot on target, but was denied by a sharp save from Fofana, as the visitors enjoyed a spell of genuine attacking threat.
Yet Ivory Coast again reclaimed control and deservedly equalised on 66 minutes via Haller, who was unmarked in the middle of the penalty area and easily headed home Wilfried Singo’s cross from the right.
On 69 minutes the West Africans almost went ahead via a low drive from substitute Hamed Traore, but Williams made an excellent save to keep the game at 1-1, while on the 80 minute mark Max Gradel had a free header, but failed to keep his effort on target.
The Elephants continued to push for a winner in what remained of the game, but Bafana just about held out to secure a creditable draw.
The teams will both be in 2026 World Cup qualification action next month, with Ivory Coast at home to Seychelles and South Africa hosting Benin.
Ivory Coast (0) 1 (Haller 66’)
South Africa (1) 1 (Zwane 8’)
Ivory Coast: Y. Fofana, Singo, Diomande, Ndicka, Konan (Kouame 90’), S. Fofana, Sangare (H. Traore 58’), Kessie (Seri 90’), Zaha (Gradel 58’), Bamba (Diakite 58’), Haller
South Africa: Williams, Mudau (Kekana 87’), Mvala, Xulu, Modiba, Mokoena, Sithole, Zwane (Mthethwa 83’), Hlongwane (Foster 83’), Mayambela (Mobbie 73’), Mothiba