Gallant Amajimbos went down 2-0 to Mali in the 2015 CAF African Youth Championship final in Niamey on Sunday night but coach Molefi Ntseki said he was happy with his charges’ performance despite the defeat. It was a high tempo game which saw the physically bigger Malians using their imposing stature to dictate the pace. But despite the scoreline, Amajimbos gave as much as they received throughout the 90 minutes. Stand out goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto and defender Reeve Frosler were in the thick of action from the word go and respectively came to the rescue of the South Africans as the West Africans sought for an early goal.
It was a physical first half with Amajimbos handling aerial balls well but Mali keeping up the pressure and despite going to half time goalless, both teams created gilt-edged chances. After some constant pressure at the start of the second half, the Malians duly took the lead through industrious striker Siaka Bagayoko in the 65th minute following some indecisive marking at the corner. Mpoto had made a number of saves to keep South Africa in the game, with one in particularly impressive, while the Malians also missed several chances with shots that went wide.
It was game over in the 78th minute when Aly Malle doubled Mali's lead with 12 minutes remaining, getting just reward for another sustained period of pressure to inflict the killer blow with a curling that shot that gave Mpoto no chance. The Malians showed superior physical dominance and endurance to get the second goal towards the end of the match as Amajimbos ran out of ideas. South Africa had a Khanyiso Mayo goal ruled out for offside in the 88th minute following good work by the lively Sibongakonke Mbatha and never gave up after a spirited performance, as they kept on pushing to the end.
Amajimbos end as runners-up, while Guinea claimed third place earlier on Sunday after beating Nigeria 3-1 in the third-place playoff.
“On another day, the result could have been different. They bullied us off the ball but we always threatened on counter-attacks. We will now focus our attention to the World Cup in Chile. I am proud of the boys,” he said.
South Africa XI: Mpoto, Ngcobo, Frosler, Mohamme, Mukumela, Dlala, Meyiwa, Maluleke (c), Mbatha, Mkatshana, Mayo
Mali XI: Traore, Dante, Bagayoko, Sangare, I. Traore, Mamadou Fofana, Koita, Malle. Maiga, B. Traore.