Bafana Bafana reclaim top spot in group after beating Ethiopia in front of home fans
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Cape Town – Resurgent Bafana Bafana propelled themselves closer to a place at next year’s World Cup after they racked up a third win on the trot after a slender 1-0 triumph over Ethiopia in Tuesday evening’s World Cup qualifier at the FNB Stadium.
It was a glorious result in front of 2000 spectators and ensures that Bafana Bafana will remain at the top of Group G standings, and with two rounds of matches left, the chances of reaching the final round of qualifying are glowing red hot.
Nearest Group G rivals Ghana upped the ante earlier on Tuesday when they defeated Zimbabwe 1-0, and the result means that they are a mere one point adrift of pace-setters Bafana Bafana.
Coach Hugo Broos opted for four changes in his run-on XI. The few substitutes who showed excellent form when they joined the fray in Ethiopia last Saturday served notice that they are ready to deliver on home turf in this return fixture.
The side wasted no time at the kick-off to run hard at the Ethiopian defence, who conceded a second-minute corner. Bafana Bafana midfielder Yusuf Maart overcooked the set-piece, and the ball rolled away harmlessly on the opposite end of the pitch.
Both sides showed keen attacking intent when in possession, but they were plagued by speculative passes which provided turnovers. As a result, neither side posed a threat in the final third until the Ethiopian Getaneh Kebede tried a long-range shot which was but fractionally off target in the ninth minute.
Maart was up for a second corner in the 11th minute and this time he delivered the set piece with precision. He dropped the ball plumb in front of the opposition posts. Victor Letsoalo rose well to connect with a header which Ethiopian captain Kebede tried to clear but instead hoofed the ball into his net.
Ethiopia undaunted by the setback staged several attacks into the opposition half as they surprisingly secured a greater share of possession. Bafana Bafana's five-man midfield worked like busy bees as they gave Ethiopia little chance to break into their goalmouth.
For the greater part of the first half, Bafana Bafana managed several high presses after smart through balls from deep options but all too often they were trapped offside, and several promising situations were thwarted.
In the 28th minute, Bafana Bafana front runner Bongokuhle Hlongwane was set free down the right flank and showed a terrific turn of speed before reeling in a low cross. Letsoalo shook off his marker and had a strike, but he skied the attempt at a time when the opposing defence was in disarray. With this miss, Bafana Bafana spurned a gilt-edged chance to bank an insurance goal.
Just ahead of the halftime break, Ethiopian left half Surafel Dagnachew unleashed a stinging drive from the edge of the goalmouth but Bafana Bafana goalmouth custodian Ronwen Williams turned the ball away.
The second half started on a topsy turvy note as the play reached both penalty areas in the first four minutes. First, Bafana Bafana turned a shot on target away for a corner to keep their 1-0 lead intact, and six minutes later, Ethiopian defender Aschalew Tamene cleared the ball off his goalline.
Bafana Bafana striker Evidence Makgopa was the unlucky one after he rounded goalkeeper Fasil Gebremichael he tapped the ball goalwards but Tamene desperately ran in to avert further danger.
Although Ethiopia continued to command the major share of possession, Bafana Bafana's high press was causing panic in the opposition defence. As the match wound towards the final 15 minutes of play, Bafana Bafana looked the likelier to score and Makgopa had a good case for a penalty when he was fouled in the penalty box 15 minutes from the end.