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Bafana Bafana seal Africa Cup of Nations berth after beating Liberia

Bafana Bafana seal Africa Cup of Nations berth after beating Liberia
William W Jebor of Liberia is challenged by Mothobi Mvala of South Africa during the 2023 African Cup of Nations Qualifier game between Liberia and South Africa at Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Monrovia, Liberia on 28 March 2023. (Photo: BackpagePix)

South Africa will contest for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations trophy in Ivory Coast after edging Liberia in a winner-takes-all clash.

Bafana Bafana battled hard to pip Liberia 2-1 during a crucial Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier in the volcanic heat of the latter’s capital city, Monrovia, on Tuesday evening.

The win came courtesy of goals by Zakhele Lepasa and Mihlali Mayembela – with William Jebor’s consolatory goal for the hosts sandwiched between the two South African strikes.

The result means that Bafana Bafana will join the already qualified Morocco as the other team in Group K that will travel to Ivory Coast in January 2024, pipping the only other contender in the group in Liberia.

Similarly to the first leg in Johannesburg (where they relinquished a two-goal lead in the dying minutes), South Africa scored first.

bafana broos

Hugo Broos, head coach of South Africa celebrates with his players after the 2023 African Cup of Nations Qualifier game between Liberia and South Africa at Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Monrovia, Liberia on 28 March 2023. (Photo: BackpagePix)

SuperSport United striker Lepasa latched on to a high ball launched by Thapelo Morena on the right-hand flank in the 19th minute. He controlled perfectly before stroking the ball past Tommy Songo in the Liberian goal.

It was vindication for Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos – who raised some eyebrows when he left out Lyle Foster, scorer of the team’s two goals in the reverse fixture a week ago. The official word was that Foster was not feeling well, and Lepasa deputised perfectly for the Burnley forward.   

bafana maela

Nohan Kenneh of Liberia is challenged by Innocent Maela of South Africa during the 2023 African Cup of Nations Qualifier game between Liberia and South Africa at Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Monrovia, Liberia on 28 March 2023. (Photo: BackpagePix)

After Lepasa’s opener, Bafana’s persistent mental frailties again crept to the fore as they conceded an equaliser just five minutes after a water break necessitated by the blazing heat at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium.  

William Jebor was granted acres of space and he tried his luck from distance with a rasping shot that snuck past the fingers of Bafana goalkeeper Ronwen Williams after bouncing awkwardly on the artificial pitch — a seismic blow 10 minutes before the break.

It was a fightback that Broos had anticipated, as he revealed his pre-match conference.

“It will be tough. [Especially] with the heat. I didn’t see the pitch yet, but I know a synthetic surface is always a bit tricky,” the Belgian said.

With the South Africans on edge after the leveller, the team threatened to capitulate once more. A Liberian crowd that had turned up in decent numbers played its part in unsettling the visitors.

Nervous moments

There were some nervous moments before the halftime break, compounded by a fracas on the touchline that saw a seething South African team manager Vincent Tseka shown a red card for unleashing unrelenting verbal expletives at the match officials on the brink of halftime.

In the second half, Bafana returned with cooler heads, in spite of the pressure, the heat in the stadium and the raucous Liberian crowd.

They were rewarded for their regained composure when forward Mayambela combined with talisman Percy Tau on the left side and was on hand to stroke home the latter’s hopeful cross eight minutes into the second stanza.

Despite some heart-stopping late moments, Bafana Bafana did what they should have done on home soil and held on to see the match out, leaving the Liberians crestfallen after a valiant effort.

The 2023 showpiece in Ivory Coast will be just the fourth appearance from eight recent Afcons for South Africa – including when they automatically qualified as hosts in 2013. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • andrew farrer says:

    how can you report on this without examining the cause of the manager getting red carded!
    A clear case of officials (probably bribed) trying to influence the outcome of a match. What action is fifa (Africa) taking against the ref and linesman?

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