Santana unfazed by mounting pressure

BELEAGUERED Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana is unfazed by the growing calls to Safa top brass to fire him.

BELEAGUERED Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana is unfazed by the growing calls to Safa top brass to fire him.

The national coach was calm when addressing the media after the slender 1-0 win over minnows Madagascar in an international friendly at Kimberley Stadium on Saturday.

The under-fire Brazilian, who was rebuked after the match by a fan who told him to "go back to Brazil", said he was happy with his charges' overall performance.

"I'm happy with the way we played. It was a game of two halves. We did not play well in the first half because most of our passes went astray. But we were organised in the second half and we managed to put their defence under pressure."

Santana said the door was still open for players who wanted to be part of the squad for the 2010 World Cup finals. This after seeing the likes of Daine Klate and Richard Henyekane make a strong case for future selection on Saturday.

"I brought in new players to see how well they play and the door is still open for them to stake their claim in the squad for the World Cup," Santana said.

In-form Mamelodi Sundowns striker Katlego Mphela continued his rich vein of form, scoring Bafana's solitary goal against the Islanders. Mphela had scored a brace in Sundowns' 4-2 midweek loss against Bidvest Wits going into the game.

Substitute Mphela, who came in for the unimpressive Siyabonga Nkosi at the beginning of the second half, connected beautifully with a Henyekane cross in the 64th minute.

Captain Benson Mhlongo reckons Mphela and his fellow strikers would have scored more had it not been for the bumpy pitch.

"The pitch was bumpy and not suitable for the type of football we're used to. We then resorted to playing long balls," said Mhlongo.

"Some of the new players looked nervous, but as captain I tried to calm their nerves.

"It was a must-win match for us and I'm happy we managed to win," he added.

Madagascar must have felt unfairly treated by Botswana referee Joshua Bondo after he denied them what looked a legitimate equaliser deep in the second half.