By FOCUS REPORTER
THE South African National Under 23 side has qualified for the semi-finals of the 2011 All Africa Games Men’s tournament after securing a 1-0 victory over Ghana at the Maxaquene Stadium, in Maputo. The match was held yesterday.
Fisimpilo Ntombela proved to be the super sub as he scored with his first touch after coming on as a substitute in the 79th minute to give the South Africa their second victory of the tournament following a three one victory over hosts Mozambique last Sunday.
Ghana and Mozambique will go head-to-head on Saturday with a place alongside South Africa in the last four at stake.
With only three teams in the group South Africa knew a draw would be good enough to advance and played a less expansive game than they displayed against Mozambique.
Ghana kept the young South Africans on the back foot as they stretched the defence, and Prince Baffoe should have given the Ghanaians the lead in the 19th minute, but his snap shot flew wide of Nhlanhla Khuzwayo’s goal. A minute later Ahmed Sani broke into the area but his shot was forced wide by Katlego Pule.
South Africa continued to soak up the pressure into the second half.
Sensing danger, South Africa’s head coach Shakes Mashaba threw in Khunadi Nkoana and Siyabonga Zulu into the fray. The duo’s introduction was the tonic South Africa needed as they began creating more chances in attack. With the momentum in their favour Mashaba introduced Ntombela and the young striker rewarded the coach when he headed in the winner from a corner with his first touch a minute after checking in.
Ghana tried as much as they could to find an equaliser but were thwarted by the defensive pairing of Sibusiso Mxoyana and Thamsanqa Sangweni, who were in an uncompromising mood to secure the points.
“I’m happy that I was able to score with my first touch of the ball,” said Ntombela, “but the important thing is that we are now in the semifinals.”
South Africa will have a week to prepare for the game, which will take place at Machava Stadium this coming Tuesday.
“It was a wake up call for the players after the win over Mozambique as Ghana dominated us in the first half. But we made changes and the boys showed good character to turn it around,” said Mashaba.