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SA SOCCER NEWS
Conti's Olympic dream dead and buried 13/03/04
South Africa lost their penultimate Olympic qualifier - and a chance to go to Athens - against Ghana 2-1 on a wet pitch at the Caledonian Stadium in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon.

A Ghanaian flag in the stands stating 'One-Man' depicted that only one man, Razak Punpong, would lay any thoughts of going to Athens - to rest, as he scored both goals to confirm a valuable three points for his country.

The intensity of a must-win game for both teams reached it's climax on the half-hour when Orlando Pirates defender Edward Malinga and Black Star striker Ishmael Addo engaged in a scuffle for the ball and both players were promptly sent off by the referee.

Amaglug-glug showed their intentions early with Bucs duo Joseph 'Duku-Duku' Makhanya and Benedict Vilakazi leading the attack against the visitors.

Makhanya's pace and skill on the right wing had the diminutive player fouled continuously by the insecure Ghanaian defenders.

Coach Conti Kubheka used Golden arrows striker Mabhuti Khanyeza alone up front but the player did not get the necessary support from Vilakazi and former SuperSport United striker Thando Mngomeni who was ineffectively used on the left wing.

The South Africans, led by Vilakazi, continued to attack mercilessly looking for the opening goal which eluded the hosts fro 45 minutes.

Both teams left the pitch goal less after an energy sapping first half.

Amaglug-glug continued in their attacking mind-set but it was the Ghanaians who struck first when Punpong rose unchallenged to nod home a corner, exposing the Malinga-less defence and put his team in the lead.

Vilakazi urged his colleagues on and the team responded five minutes later.

A long ball from Gabriel Mofokeng found Makhanya on the edge of the area and the midfielder set up his captain with a neat header down and the skipper unleashed a well-struck shot from 23-yards out that left the visitors keeper diving through the air aimlessly.

The fans, umbrellas in hand, found their voices and urged the future Bafana Bafana players on.

Mngomeni showed his class with sublime touches throughout the game but it's his vision that separated him from the rest.

The lanky midfielder found Khanyeza in the 18-yard area but the Abafana Bes'thende marksman's first touch let him down and his resultant shot was well covered by a defender.

The resultant corner proved fruitless for the South Africans.

Kubheka strangely held back his substitution while his opposite Mario Barreto rang the changes to his team who were holding the visitors who were visibly becoming exhausted and desperate.

Arrows defender Sakhile Mhlangu took it upon himself to initiate an attack and after good interplay with Vilakazi the right-back, who had Mngomeni, Khanyeza and his skipper open ballooned his shot way over the bar.

Gift Leremi was brought on for his Pirates team mate Makhanya with 26 minutes left to play but the winger could not produce the desired result.

After another hapless Amaglug-glug attack the resultant clearance found Punpong on the half way line.

The striker, against Chiefs defender Derrick Spencer and Mhlangu, raced goal wards and with excellent control and a vicious strike finished off his solo-run with aplomb in the 72nd minute.

The late introduction of Inter Turku striker Ryan Botha for Mngomeni could not aid Amaglug-glug's ailing cause as they kept on fighting for an equaliser.

The younger generation of Black Stars, sending victory, were too happy to let the clock run down by taking their time on dead ball situations.

Kubheka acknowledged after the game that his Olympic dream was truly over and now South Africa has to look to a new dream, with hopefully a new coach, to lead us to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

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