Cape Town - Senegal’s Under 23 national team were too strong, too smart and too clinical for South Africa as they won 3-1 in the opening match of the CAF U23 Africa Nations Cup in Dakar, Senegal.
The three top African sides of this eight-team event running over two weeks will qualify for the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
South Africa started the match well with some positive running and the exciting Phakamani Mahlambi kept the Senegalese defenders guessing in the early stages.
But even though the visitors won a number of set pieces around the 18 area, the set pieces that followed lacked the quality to really make an impact.
Then South Africa midfielder Keagan Dolly struck a first time shot from just outside the box after some good build up play, but his goal bound attempt was blocked.
Then the game swung away from the visitors after the hosts broke away and put South Africa captain Kwanda Mngonyama under pressure inside his own 18 area and a clumsy foul by him resulted in a penalty, which Ibrahim Keita slotted coolly past Ricardo Goss.
After 22 minutes Ibrahima Keita was at it again when he broke away from his markers and powered home a shot after some fantastic passing by Senegal inside the final third of the field.
Six minutes later Mahlambi again put pressure on the home defence and this time drew a foul inside the 18 area and won a penalty. Phumlani Ntshangase stepped up and blasted home from the spot.
Senegal came close to a third goal late in the first half when the impressive Ismaila Sarr beat his man and cut inside before trying a deft chip over the ‘keeper, but the South African defence cleared the ball off the line.
In the second half Senegal were more intent on defending their lead and looking to catch the visitors on the counter attack. South Africa made a few changes, bringing on Deolin Mekoa and then Riyaad Norodien to add extra attacking impetus.
With just over ten minutes to go, South Africa coach Owen da Gama brought on striker Dumisani Zuma in a final attempt to grab an equaliser. But Senegal continued to defend well and squeeze ball possession away from the visitors.
Not long after Denwin Farmer was taken off after a nasty knock to his head in an aerial challenge, Senegal got their third goal and what a strike it was.
In the 87th minute Senegal substitute striker Sidy Sarr brilliantly turned Mngonyama inside the 18 area, swivelled and powered home a left footed curler into the far post.