Kodjia Spares Elephants’ Blushes

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar July 4, 2019 13:20

Kodjia Spares Elephants’ Blushes

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By Satish Sekar at Cairo’s Al Salam Stadium © Satish Sekar (June 24th 2019)

Unconvincing, But These Elephants’ Memories Are Short

Ivory Coast’s Elephants overcame a largely defensive Bafana Bafana through Jonathan Kodjia’s second half strike. South Africa sat back and absorbed the pressure and frustrated a profligate Ivorian attack for three quarters of the match.

The goal when it came after 65 minutes summed up the match. Wonlo Coulibaly’s long ball found Toulouse’s Max-Alain Gradel on the left. He slipped as he played the ball through, claiming an assist as Kodjia couldn’t miss.

Prior to that Kodjia had been profligate, and arguably was lucky to even be on the pitch as his forearm connected with Dean Furman. The South African didn’t complain afterwards. Kodjia, Franck Kessié and Nicolás Pépé wasted good opportunities. Kodjia was particularly guilty. After a nod-on by Ismaël Traoré, Kodjia only had Ronwen Williams to beat, but shot straight at him.

Chances Galore

Pépé dusted himself off after being fouled and took the free-kick himself after just over half an hour. He struck the junction between bar and post – a pity for the game, as that would have settled Ivorian nerves and brought the Bafana Bafana out of their shell. They had attacks too. Thulani Hlatshwayo headed Lebo Mothiba’s corner over five minutes earlier, but neither side were convincing in attack.

One minute changed the game. Percy Tau chased a long ball, and the far from convincing Ivorian keeper Sylvain Ghobouo was beaten to the ball by Tau. He had Traoré to thank for saving his clean sheet. The defender got back to clean up the danger. Within a minute Kodjia had scored.

VAR Controversy

VAR will make its appearance in the quarter-finals after the CAF Champions League fiasco. Stuart Baxter and the Bafana Bafana have cause to regret that. Baxter supports the use of VAR. “We want the correct decisions,” he says. He was on the receiving end of a bad one tonight as substitute Lars Velwijk was bundled over in the box by Traoré – nothing was given.

The controversy, this time, was that there was no VAR, and it was sorely needed. The goal-scorer could easily have seen red after just two minutes, and a clear penalty was missed by the officials. South Africa were on the receiving end of both decisions, and both could easily have changed the outcome of the match.

However, there was still time for Pépé to test Williams from distance. The keeper pulled off an excellent fingertip save. Substitute Sibusiso Vilakazi wasted the last chance for the Bafana Bafana to grab a point two minutes into added time., blasting well over to Baxter’s chagrin. Neither side will be totally satisfied with the performance, but the Ivorians have the points despite being far from convincing in a difficult group, which World Cup finalists, Morocco are expected to top.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar July 4, 2019 13:20