Bafana bounce back to edge Liberia and seal Afcon finals spot | The Citizen
Zakhele Lepasa and Mihlali Mayambela were unlikely heroes for Bafana Bafana on Tuesday, as their goals secured South Africa a place at the Africa Cup of Nations finals, with a 2-1 win over Liberia at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium in Monrovia.
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The victory makes amends for Bafana’s 2-2 draw at home to Liberia last Friday and means that Hugo Broos’ men will go to the Ivory Coast early next year, whatever happens in their final qualifier at home to Morocco in June.
There were some nervy final moments for Bafana in front of a vociferous capacity home crowd, but unlike at Orlando Stadium, this time they hung on for three Group K points.
Bafana appeared to have been dealt a blow before the game kicked off, in that Lyle Foster, who scored both of their goals in Orlando, was too ill to start the game, though he did take his place on the bench.
Hugo Broos opted to play Lepasa up front, and another real surprise was the Belgian head coach’s decision to drop Mamelodi Sundowns maestro Themba Zwane, with Mayambela getting a start.
In the end, both decisions proved to be a Broos masterstroke.
Luke Le Roux was also benched in favour of Portugal-based Siphesihle Sithole in central midfield, while Broos changed up his full backs, Nyiko Mobbie and Innocent Maela both coming into the starting line-up.
After a cagey start from both sides, with little threat to either goal, Bafana Bafana opened the scoring in the 19th minute, and it was Lepasa who struck, running through onto a fine pass from Thapelo Morena and placing his shot past Tommy Songo.
Liberia, however, came storming back and captain and veteran attacker William Jabor was too strong for Mothobi Mvala as he turned his marker and fired in a low shot in the 35th minute, that Ronwen Williams got a hand to but couldn’t keep out of the back of the net.
Bafana butchered an excellent chance to score five minutes later as Percy Tau released Morena and he set up Maela, with Songo out of position. The Orlando Pirates defender hammered the ball over the bar, though the offside flag was also up, much to Broos’ annoyance.
Broos’ complaints, however were nothing compared to Bafana team manager Vincent Ntseka, who completely lost his temper as a throw-in was given against Siphesihle Sithole.
Ghanaian referee Daniel Nii Laryea showed Ntseka a straight red card and he basically had to be dragged off the pitch by a colleague, screaming expletives at the referee.
Liberia brought on both of their key game-changers from the match at Orlando Stadium at half time in Monrovia, with Tonia Tisdell and Mohammed Sangare sent into the fray.
But it was Bafana who went back in fromt in the 53rd minute. It was Mayambela who started the move, sending Percy Tau in down the left, and his cross was parried by Songo straight into the path of Mayambela, who fired into the back of the net from close range.
Bafana almost extended their lead in the 14th minute as Lepasa released substitute Bongokhule Hlongwane and his cross was cleared just before it got to another substitute, Cassius Mailula.
The home side piled on the pressure as the game drew to a close, but once Williams grabbed the ball in a goalmouth scramble, punching the air in delight, the game was up.
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