Tshabalala rocket earns Bafana win
Siphiwe Tshabalala scored in stoppage time to give South Africa a 2-1 win over Norway and their first success over European opposition in seven years. The substitute midfielder unleashed a left-foot drive from outside the penalty area that flew past several defenders and over goalkeeper Jan Knudsen, in a friendly that doubled as the Nelson Mandela Challenge.
"I knew I was going to score after working hard on my shooting in training. It was no problem starting on the bench because I believed my turn would come," said Tshabalala.
Victory was a deserved reward for this year's FIFA Confederations Cup hosts, who snatched a seventh-lead through Bernard Parker only to concede an equaliser when Morten Pedersen scored direct from a free-kick. South Africa last beat a European team when Slovenia lost 1-0 at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, and subsequently lost to Spain, England, Iceland, Germany, Scotland and Italy.
Success will restore confidence ahead of a potentially much tougher friendly against Portugal on Tuesday, in the Swiss city of Lausanne, with Bafana Bafana facing their former coach Carlos Queiroz.
"We not only won but also played well against opponents whose defensive structure made it difficult for us to penetrate," reflected South Africa coach Joel Santana.
Victorious captain and defender Aaron Mokoena said the mid-afternoon heat at a revamped Royal Bafokeng Stadium, a FIFA Confederations Cup and South Africa 2010 venue, made it difficult. "This was a game we needed to win after our loss to Chile last month and the Norwegians proved tough opponents. However, we imposed our game on them and recovered well after being rattled by the equaliser."
South Africa kicked off without star striker Benni McCarthy, who was still feeling the effects of an injury sustained last weekend despite getting the all clear from Blackburn Rovers. Santana opted for a two-man attack of Serbia-based Parker and Mabhuti Khenyeza, and the former did not take long to make his mark, poking a cross into the net from close range after good work by defender Siboniso Gaxa.
It was all Bafana Bafana, with Norway pulling everyone into their half at the slightest hint of danger, and the crowd were stunned when the Scandinavians levelled on 27 minutes having being starved of possession. A foul by central defender Matthew Booth outside the penalty area presented the opportunity, and Pedersen struck the free-kick into the net while goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune stood still.
And the visitors, who triumphed in Germany last month for the first time since 1936, almost snatched the lead soon after half-time as Mohammed Abdellaoue slipped when well placed and fired wide.
Tshabalala replaced Khenyeza midway through the second half, and the match was drifting to a tame draw until the Kaizer Chiefs player took his chance two minutes into stoppage time.