DAKAR, November 14 – Hosts Senegal scored with virtually the last play at Dakar’s Leopold Senghor Stadium on Tuesday night to snatch a 2-1 win over South Africa in a final Group D World Cup qualifying game.
While the Senegalese players – who had qualified for the World Cup in Russia next year with Friday’s 2-0 win over Bafana in Polokwane – were able to celebrate after the game with their fans, the defeat meant South Africa finished rock bottom of the group.
All three goals came in the second half. Bafana had seemingly been set to have at least earned a draw when Percy Tau had cancelled out Opa Nguette’s opener, only for the west Africans to score a 93rd-minute winner through Kara Mbodji.
After the game kicked off 10 minutes late due to a floodlight failure, South Africa went on to enjoy the better of the first half exchanges, some good pressing in midfield and a well-organised defence ensuring that Itumeleng Khune did not have a save to make.
The first opportunity of the night fell to Morgan Gould, but the SuperSport United defender was unable to keep his 10th-minute volley on target.
Bafana were however not overly ambitious in the opening half an hour, apparently happy to contain the Teranga Lions, and their next chance only arrived in the 38th minute when Percy Tau did superbly to chest the ball into Sibusiso Vilakazi’s path, but although the shot was well-struck, it flew straight at goalkeeper Remi Gomis.
The visiting side ended the half strongly, although apart from a Sfiso Hlanti free-kick which was not far off, they never really looked like scoring.
The capacity home crowd finally had something to cheer about when Senegal scored 10 minutes into the second half when Nguette neatly chipped the ball into an empty net after a bad error of judgement had left Khune stranded outside his box.
Within seven minutes South Africa had the perfect chance to equalise when Themba Zwane went down under a challenge from Youssouf Sabaly and a penalty was awarded. But Zwane choked under pressure and pulled the spot-kick well wide.
It was instead Tau who levelled the game just moments later when he showed his class with a clinically-struck low shot across Gomis and in at the far post; 1-1 after 65 minutes.
The game opened up and after Senegal had twice come close with headed efforts, one of which hit the woodwork, Tau was could have won the game for Bafana after an 85th-minute counter-attack, but he fired straight at Gomis.
It was, however, to be home team’s night as they scored deep in added time when Mbodji powered in a header from a corner kick as they celebrated qualification for Russia in winning style in the Senegal capital.