Bafana Bafana suffered a 2-1 defeat to Morocco in their opening 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Thursday night.
There were debuts for Grant Kekana, Taariq Fielies and Sphephelo Sithole, while Morocco featured star man Achraf Hakimi who scored the winner the last time these two teams met in 2019.
Bafana sustained the early pressure and went ahead after Lyle Foster ran onto the end of a ball over the top from Sithole on eight minutes and fired into the near corner.
The North Africans searched an instant response and were close when a header from Youssef En-Neyri at the back-post of the area forced goalkeeper Ronwen Williams into a superb save.
Williams was given more work in the matter of minutes as he produced a tremendous point-blank save to thwart En-Nesyri’s clear one-on-one opportunity.
It was all the Atlas Lions in the closing seconds to halftime where another sublime save from Williams smothered Hakimi’s powerful strike from a tight angle.
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Bafana remained on the back-foot in the second half and eventually succumbed as En-Nesyri charged in the area and nodded in a nicely worked knockdown from Romain Saiss six minutes in.
The visitors looked to stage a turnaround after surrendering the lead moments thereafter and a couple of threatening combination passes by Thembinkosi Lorch and Percy Tau caused concern.
Nonetheless, Morocco still had promising chances late on and could’ve had the lead after a first-time header from a tight angle by En-Nesyri but Williams produced an outstretched save palm.
The visitors conceded more chances and ultimately a second goal in the last nine minutes after Ayoub El Kaabi volleyed in at the near post following a penetrative cross.
As Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Evidence Makgopa and Nyiko Mobbie entered, Bafana attempted a comeback with the clock ticking away but in the end went down 2-1.
Morocco: Bonou, Masina, Aguerd, Saiss, Hakimi, Amrabat, Barkok, Amallah, Chair, Tissoudali, En-Nesyri
Bafana: Williams, Mudau, Fielies, Kekana, L.Lakay, Phete, Sithole, Mosele, Tau, Lorch, Foster.
Subs: Mothwa, Bvuma, Mobbie, Maart, Nange, Shandu, Hlongwane, Mayo, F. Lakay, Makgopa.