South Africa moved closer to guaranteeing a spot in the Cameroon 2021 Total Africa Cup of Nations finals, leaving it late to beat Sao Tome and Principe 4-2 in Group C thriller.
Bafana Bafana raised their tally to 9 points, to join Ghana on top temporarily, while Sao Tome’s qualification hopes were done and dusted after remaining pointless.
The game was played in Port Elizabeth, South Africa as agreed by both sides.
Sao Tome produced a brave performance, taking an early lead and holding South Africa till the 86th minute. But they bowed to two late goals by their presumed visitors.
Themba Zwane and Percy Tau had a brace each for South Africa, while Soares Pontes and Harramiz Soares scored for Sao Tome and Pricipe.
Sao Tome started the game on high note, and after eight minutes Lucio Pires shot missed the target narrowly.
They eventually took the lead at the 12th minute. From Jardel Nazare’s corner kick, skipper Joazhifel Soares Pontes rose higher than everyone to head home and give the hosts a deserved lead.
South Africa started to dominate the possession in search for the equalizer. They came closest after 28 minutes when Lebogang Manyama’s freekick went just high.
Bafana Bafana finally restored parity after 39 minutes. Themba Zwane received Dean Furman’s brilliant through pass to go one on one and quietly put the ball past Sao Tome’s goalkeeper Aldair.
Aldair intercepted just in time to deny Manyama from giving South Africa the lead just before halftime.
Joel Das Neves was the first to ask questions in the second half. His long-range effort two minutes after the break was stopped by South Africa’s goalkeeper Rowen Williams.
And seconds later the post was there to save Sao Tome when Manyama’s shot from inside the area rebounded from the left post with Aldair relieved.
Manyama once again was guilty of missing a glorious chance. Percy Tau cross from the right side found the striker only three yards away but he couldn’t control the ball that went wide.
It was minutes of swinging action, as Pires tried his luck for Sao Tome a couple of minutes later but just missed the target.
Bafana Bafana missed two huge chances in the span of 3 minutes. At the hour mark Zwane’s shot from six yards away was stopped at the line, before Aldair saved Bongani Zungu’s shot three minutes later, with the South Africans searching for the winner.
They finally got ahead 20 minutes from time. Zwane found Tau inside the penalty area, and the talented striker rounded his marker and sent a curling shot to give South Africa a deserved lead.
But Sao Tome never stopped fighting, and they got the equalizer five minutes later. Sunstitute Adrieto Pires sent a brilliant cross from the left that Harramiz Soares headed beautifully past Williams to make it 2-2.
It was to be determined late in the game, with two goals in two minutes for the Bafana Bafana. Substitute Kermit Erasmus cross found Zwane’s header to give South Africa the lead again after 87 minutes. And instantly from the kickoff, Sao Tome lost the ball and Tau went one on one with Aldair to make it 4-2. Sao Tome will leave with heads high though after a brave fight.
Eswatini 0-0 Congo
Meanwhile in Mavuso, Eswatini grabbed their first point of the qualifiers, holding Congo to a barren stalemate in Group I.
Congo lie second on seven points, five behind leaders and already qualified Senegal, and four more than third placed Guinea Bissau.
The first half was a story of rare chances. Congo had the first chance after eight minutes. Mavis Dufounou shot from a free kick was pushed by Knowledge Sandanezwe before rebounding off the post to a corner kick.
Eswatini tried to deploy long balls behind Congo’s defense but without really threatening Henri Mafoumbi between Congo’s posts.
It was not a different story in the second half, with both sides cautiously trying to find the net.
Eswatini had a glorious chance to bury the game after 80 minutes. Fanelo Mamba received the ball just outside the area and sent a scorcher that rebounded from the right post with Congo’s goalkeeper Mafoumbi beaten.
Substitiue Promise Dlamini could have won it for the hosts deep into injury time but his shot went wide as the game ended goalless.
This article was previously published on CAFonline.com