Bongokuhle Hlongwane scored in the final minutes to give Bafana Bafana an all-important 1-0 victory against Ghana in their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier at FNB Stadium on Monday.
The win sees Bafana Bafana (4 points) take first place in Group G, with Ghana (3 points) moving to second place.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe face off against each other on Tuesday evening (18:00).
Ghana started the stronger of the two teams, forcing South Africa central defender Rushine de Reuck into a rash challenge which put him in the book just four minutes in, while Andre Ayew soon dragged a shot wide from the left of the penalty area.
Bafana Bafana gradually gained a foothold in the game and began to show some promise in attack, with Bongokuhle Hlongwane and Nyiko Mobbie providing thrust down the left flank, while Ghana goalkeeper Richard Ofori was called on to punch clear a dangerous free kick delivery from Percy Tau midway through the first half.
On 31 minutes Teboho Mokoena’s shot from a kick forced an awkward save from Ofori, with the rebound then seeing Mothobi Mvala volley off target as South Africa continued to grow in confidence.
The hosts thought they had claimed the lead on 37 minutes when Tau ghosted away from his marker to head home Mobbie’s fine cross from the left, but the Bafana attacker was incorrectly flagged offside.
Goalless at the break, South Africa blew a glorious chance to break the deadlock inside the opening minute of the second half: Mokoena whipped in a cross from the right, Ofori fumbled his attempt at catching the ball, and Evidence Makgopa somehow missed an open goal from just a couple of metres out.
The Baroka FC striker was a menace to Ghana’s defence, forcing a last-gasp tackle as he shot on target a few minutes later, and winning a dangerous flick-on from a corner kick just past the hour mark as Bafana continued to look the likelier scorers.
The game looked set to end in a goalless stalemate but on 83 minutes SA were finally rewarded for their endeavour: another dangerous cross from Mokoena on the right was missed by substitute Victor Letsoalo, but Hlongwane – perhaps unwittingly – directed the ball home via the inside of the post, with Ghana’s replacement goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi powerless to prevent the goal, which proved to be the difference by the final whistle.
SA and Ghana will return to Group G action in October, with Bafana Bafana taking on Ethiopia in back-to-back matches and the Black Stars facing Zimbabwe both home and away.
South Africa (0) 1 (Hlongwane 83’)
BAFANA: Williams, Morena, De Reuck, Xulu, Mobbie, Brooks, Mvala (Ngcobo 77’), Mokoena, Hlongwane (Maart 90+3’), Makgopa (Letsoalo 81’), Tau (Blom 77’)
GHANA: Ofori (Ati-Zigi78’), F. Mohammed, J. Mensah, Djiku, G. Mensah, Wakaso (Owusu 71’), Ashimeru (I. Mohammed 78’), Lomotey, Fameyeh (Opoku 60’), A. Ayew, Yeboah
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