Ndulula keeps SA U23 on track
Daveyton - South African Bongani Ndulula enhanced his reputation as one of the best young strikers on the continent with a brace in a 2-0 win over Zimbabwe on Saturday in an All-Africa Games qualifier.
The tall, dreadlocked Orlando Pirates footballer broke the deadlock five minutes before half-time in a third round, first leg clash at cold, windy Sinaba Stadium in this township on the eastern border of Johannesburg.
His second goal arrived 11 minutes from full-time and rewarded persistent pressure by the home team, who would not have been flattered by a four-goal victory margin ahead of the return match in Harare next month.
Ndulula also scored two goals for the national Under-23 team last weekend in a 5-1 drubbing of Benin in a 2012 London Olympic Games qualifier as South Africa reached the last-eight stage.
The goals against Zimbabwe made Ndulula leading scorer in the All-Africa Games elimination competition with six - one more than Zimbabwean Simba Sithole - after scoring all four in a home win against Malawi.
Sithole, who has reportedly signed a five-year contract with Pretoria club Mamelodi Sundowns, was closely policed by a dominant South African defence and never troubled goalkeeper Boalefa Pule.
Success over Zimbabwe would take South Africa to the All-Africa Games finals during September in Mozambique, where eight countries will challenge for the football gold medals.
"We should have scored more goals after putting Zimbabwe under so much pressure but over-elaboration and wild finishing let us down," admitted South Africa coach Ephraim 'Shakes' Mashaba.
Zimbabwe coach Friday Phiri was upbeat despite seeing his outclassed team escape lightly: "We are going to recover at home and win the tie after conceding two soft goals here."
It took 35 minutes for the match to liven up with Phumelele Bhengu wasting a good chance through poor control, but Ndulula was far more clinical as he lobbed a weak back pass over goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda and into the net.
The second half was a procession toward the Zimbabwe goalmouth and the visitors finally cracked when a Themba Zwane run created space inside the penalty area for Ndulula to fire home.
A sporting encounter between neighbouring countries turned ugly in the final minute with Devon Chafa guilty of a reckless tackle that felled an opponent and he was shown a red card by the Botswana referee.