South Africa have struck a major blow to Ghana’s hopes of returning to the World Cup after claiming a 1-0 win in the teams’ 2022 Qualifying Group G clash at the FNB Stadium in Soweto on Monday.
A late, and somewhat lucky, goal from Bongokuhle Hlongwane separated the teams after 90 hard-fought minutes, but Bafana Bafana were worthy winners over a toothless Black Stars outfit after being the more proactive and dangerous team in attack.
The result sees SA top the log with four points, while Ghana remain on three. Zimbabwe and Ethiopia – who meet in Bahir Dar on Tuesday – are on one and zero points respectively.
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 stanza: 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.