Pointe-Noire - Bongani Ndulula scored his second international goal in just three
appearances to help South Africa to a crucial 2-0 victory over Congo in a 2015
Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Pointe-Noire on Saturday afternoon.
As it happened: Congo v Bafana Bafana
Ndulula drew first blood early in the second half, before Tokelo Rantie
helped himself to his fifth international career goal to put the result beyond
doubt and send Bafana Bafana top of Group A.
As the qualification campaign reached the halfway stage, Bafana grabbed
three priceless points in a week where talk of a win for South Africa focused
on the unlikelihood in the ever-hostile coastal city of Pointe-Noire.
Seven points from three tough encounters gives South Africa a superb start
and a solid footing as the team begin their trip back home, where Polokwane
will host the return fixture against Congo next week.
Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba made three changes to the team that earned a
credible goalless draw against Nigeria in Cape Town last month.
Ajax Cape Town defender Rivaldo Coetzee made his debut for the senior team
having come through the youth structures under the guidance of Mashaba.
Coetzee became the senior national team's youngest ever representative at
17, beating a 15 record held by another defender, Aaron Mokoena.
Thulani Serero was also in the starting line-up, while Rantie partnered
Ndulula in attack.
Congo had the brighter start, opening up a number of chances, which
culminated in a double chance inside the opening eight minutes.
The hosts continued to press and had South Africa under pressure throughout
the opening quarter, Senzo Meyiwa regularly called into action.
South Africa looked to struggle after 22 minutes and failed to make any
inroads as Congo continued to advance on the front foot.
Ndulula was left wondering what could have been when he was put through on
goal after some superb work in the middle from Doncaster Rovers midfielder Dean
Furman broke through the middle before combining with a host of South
Africans, laying off to Ndulula in the area. He was unable to get his shot away
and was blocked at the last minute.
At the other end, Meyiwa was kept busy by the Congo attackers, but none were
able to test the Orlando Pirates number one, who made light work of the tame efforts
coming his way.
Bafana slowly found their feet and began to build some ascendancy, Furman
and Andile Jali dictating play in the middle of the park.
A goalmouth scramble inside the South African box sparked a frantic five
minutes as Meyiwa was forced into a brilliant save to deny Congo, who were
through on goal.
From the one end to the other, Bafana broke the deadlock in spectacular
fashion as Ndulula volleyed over his shoulder from a Mandla Masango corner.
High and mighty, Congo were left for dead as the striker's acrobatic shot
flew into the back of the net, a failed clearance notwithstanding.
But there was more to come for the visitors as Rantie curled home Bafana's
second of the afternoon.
Some industrious work in midfield allowed Furman to come through with the
ball, before laying off to Rantie, who did the rest, as he side-footed home.
Meyiwa was looking unbeatable at the back, making a fine save in the 73rd
minute after initially spilling a corner.
Meyiwa was kept the busier of the two goalkeepers as the clock wound down, putting
himself in line for the man-of-the-match award with countless saves and parried
to keep Bafana's lead in tact.
Massa, I Nganga, Moubhio, F Nganga, Bissiki, Ndinga, Oniangué, Gandzé, Litsingi, Bifouma, Doré
Meyiwa, Matlaba, Mathoho, Coetzee, Hlatshwayo, Furman, Jali, Masango, Serero, Rantie, Ndulula