Bafana drop two points in crucial Afcon qualifier against Ghana
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CAPE TOWN – The Group C battle for places in next year's continental showpiece in Cameroon is set to go down to the wire after the top of the table clash ended with South Africa and Ghana playing to a 1-all draw in their penultimate 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the FNB Stadium on Thursday evening.
Following this result, Ghana are still at the top of the log by virtue of their superior goal difference with 10 points. South Africa also on 10 points are in second place, followed by Sudan on nine points.
All three teams will be in action on Sunday after which their qualification will be decided.
South Africa had every chance of taking the game by the scruff of the neck in the fifth minute after midfielders Themba Zwane and Percy Tau undid Ghana's central defence before feeding unmarked Thalepo Morena with a scoring pass.
With Ghana's defence floundering in front of their goals, Morena, with time on his side, drilled his shot into the side netting.
Morena was the villain again just past the half-hour mark when he found himself in an almost identical position, and Tau again was the provider. This time Morena side-footed his powder puff effort past the upright.
Defender Morena had done well in his overlapping role, but he is clearly not cut out for striking duties.
On four occasions in the first half, Tau's fleetness of foot in Ghana's penalty area caused problems for the opposition, and his efforts should have realised at least one goal after 45 minutes.
As the half moved towards its close, South Africa revelled with a playing pattern that was easy on the eye but lacked urgency even though it helped to ratchet up the pressure, which Ghana managed to absorb.
There was great concern in South Africa's ranks when Tau suffered a severe bump in a tackling attempt, late in the half. He limped off but re-joined the fray at the start of the second half.
The second half produced a dramatic start after a goal emerged at either end in the first seven minutes. First, the South African central sprung a huge gap to allow Ghana striker Mohammed Kudus free passage, and his parting shot flew past goalkeeper Ronwen Williams in the 47th minute (1-0).
This setback was the cue for South Africa's talisman Tau, nicknamed the 'Lion of Judah', to roar, and he did just that five minutes later to restore the stalemate in the match. South Africa responded with a penetrative attack, and this saw Tau meandering into the penalty area, where he unleashed a low drive from an acute angle for the equaliser (1-1).
As the second half wore on, both sides had chances to score. However, efforts in front of goal were wayward, and in the end, the teams had to settle for a hard-fought draw.
South Africa will wind up their qualification campaign with a match in Sudan on Sunday evening.
The other Group C match will be between Ghana and Sao Tome, who have yet to win a match in the qualifying round.