Durban - Bafana Bafana kick-started their Africa Cup of Nations campaign on Wednesday, climbing to the top of Group A as they eased past Angola with a comfortable 2-0 victory in Durban.
After a disappointing opening goalless draw against Cape Verde Islands at the weekend, South Africa were in desperate need for a win, and goals in each half by Siyabonga Sangweni and substitute Lehlohonolo Majoro gave them that in front of a near-50 000 crowd at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Coach Gordon Igesund had rung the changes at the start when he made five in total, most of them in attack, and it proved a masterstroke.
The hosts made a slightly cagey start and when the defence back-tracked in the third minute, with a shot opening up for striker Mateus, he dragged his attempt across the face of goal with Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune left scrambling.
Katlego Mphela, one of the players returning to the starting line-up, had the first real shot at goal for the home team when he fired wide, before captain Bongani Khumalo missed with a header from an excellent Thuso Phala free-kick from the left.
The attacking intent of the hosts was clear and Tokelo Rantie had the next opening after collecting a good ball from over the top by Bernard Parker, although the final shot was once again poor.
Midway through the half, Mphela was again at the heart of the South African attack when he played in to Rantie on the left, but the Sweden-based forward ballooned over with the goal gaping.
But there was no denying the hosts on the half-hour mark when Mphela flicked on Parker’s cross from the right and Sangweni lashed home a left-footed volley to spark intense celebrations in the growing crowd.
The reply was almost instant by the visitors, though, as Guilherme saw his header from a corner scrambled away by Khune.
Igesund’s men continued to venture forward before the break, but they were almost made to pay for more spectator-like defending as Mateus blazed over.
Moments before the break, Parker pushed forward and shot straight at Lama in the Angolan goal, before Rantie headed onto the roof of the net.
It was 1-0 at the break and after the restart Angola should have levelled straight away when Mateus charged down the right and played the ball into the feet of Guilherme in the box, but the shot was blasted straight at Khune.
The ever-present Dean Furman was next to come close for Bafana when he forced Lama to tip away his strike as the game began to open up.
Majoro, introduced in the 58th minute for Rantie, then sent the crowd into ruptures with South Africa’s second goal.
He collected a superb ball over the top from another substitute, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, beat his man on the left and cut back slightly, before firing in between the legs of Lama, at a tight angle, shortly after the hour mark.
There was not much of a response from Angola straight after, apart from a few uncomfortable corners that forced Khune to turn away.
With five minutes remaining, the largely anonymous Manucho could only head tamely at Khune after an inch-perfect cross from Lunguinha on the right.
Majoro almost added a third goal late on when his attempted chip sailed just over, but it mattered little as South Africa celebrated.
Bafana picked up the first win of their group after the four sides settled for goalless draws on Saturday.
The other two teams in Group A, Morocco and Cape Verde, were set to square off in the later match of Wednesday's double header, in an effort to close the gap on the hosts. - Sapa