South Africa scored the first goals in Group A to defeat Angola 2-0 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban at the African Cup of Nations.
After the group opened up the tournament at the weekend with two 0-0 draws, the lull was finally broken half an hour into its third match by centre-back Siyabonga Sangweni, of all people, with a beautiful volleyed finish. The Bafana Bafana dominated the majority of play but wasted several opportunities to extend their lead and escaped a number of close calls coming mostly from Alberto Manucho before finally finding daylight through substitute Lehlohonolo Majoro in the 62nd minute. Ahead of the clash between Morocco and Cape Verde later in the day, the win put South Africa three clear of the pack on four points.
A cautious start from both sides told the story of Group A heading into the second matchday: with all four teams level on points and two games to play, there was little margin for error if the sides had designs on the knockout stages. Despite having more pressure on them as the fancied host nation, it was South Africa who took the initiative first, stringing together meaningful possession and winning a series of free-kicks in useful positions whilst their guests continued to struggle with simple possession.
Katlego Mphela almost preyed on defensive complacency on 18 minutes, only for his toe-poke towards goal from close range to be well blocked by an alert Mamona Lama in goal. But when he and strike partner Tokelo Rantie failed to convert their side’s dominance into an opening goal, an unlikely team-mate stepped up to break the deadlock. One of Bernard Parker’s many free-kick deliveries into the danger zone was poorly dealt with by Angola, and when the ball came back down from the air defender Sangweni met it perfectly with a wicked volley. Manucho almost equalised within moments, before heading across goal to set up a wasted volley attempt from Mateus three minutes before the interval.
Angola’s coaching staff were further irritated just before the start of the second half as the officials allowed the hosts – but not them – to make a half-time substitution, a situation which was quickly remedied. It was South Africa’s second switch – with Rantie making way for Majoro – which wrapped up three points for Bafana Bafana, with the lively replacement finding the net five minutes after coming on. Though Angola were putting together their first meaningful passages of possession and looking likely to level the score, a quick counter saw Majoro make a fool of his marker on the left-hand byline before doing the same to Lama by putting the second goal between the keeper’s legs from a tight angle. Manucho, Guilherme Afonso and Jose Pirolito all had chances to pull a goal back for their nation and trigger a tense finale, but their defeat would come with the final lasting memory of sub Amaro hitting the deck clutching his face after minimal contact with Anele Ngcongca.