Ghana’s Black Stars nearly held out for a draw at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg FIFA World Cup qualifying on Monday, but South Africa’s Bafana Bafana found a late goal to win 1-0 and thrust themselves into first place in Group G. Bongokhuhle Hlongwane turned in a cross from Teboho Mokoena to provide the crucial moment and punish Ghana’s overly defensive approach to the match. South Africa now sit on four points in first place while Ghana trail with three as Zimbabwe and Ethiopia have yet to play their second game.
Numerous lineup changes were made by Ghana with manager Charles Akonnor being forced to adjust to the unavailability of numerous players due to Covid-19 related travel restrictions. Jordan Ayew and Kamal Deen Sulemana were among the names missing who started against Ethiopia earlier in the international break, being the notable names missing from a lineup that had six changes. The lack of fluidity was clearly on display and the Black Stars were forced into a conservative and defensive approach.
The hosts began to threaten after the thirty minute mark with a free kick by Mokoena causing issues for Ghana goalkeeper Richard Ofori, who struggled to handle the short hop before a dangerous rebound could not be turned in by Bafana Bafana. In the 37th minute, a cross from the left flank found Percy Tau, who headed past Ofori for an apparent goal but the linesperson ruled offside. The replay showed that contrary to the decision, Tau had timed his run perfectly and the goal should have stood.
Being tied 0-0 at halftime, the troubling signs resumed for Ghana upon resumption. In the opening minute of the second half, a cross from Mokoena was horribly fluffed by Ofori and fell through to an onrushing Hlongwane, but the Maritzburg United player was caught by surprise and his touch to the ball went just wide of the open net. Hlongwane later set up Mothobi Mvala with a cross of his own, but after touching the ball in the air, Mvala sent an overhead kick just wide.
Bafana Bafana would not be kept out for the full ninety minutes, however. In the 83rd minute a ball into the Ghanaian penalty area was flicked out wide where Mokoena collected to send in a low cross. Hlongwane got on the end of the service and got just enough of a foot to direct the ball off Ofori’s post and into the goal to send Bafana Bafana into joyous celebration.
Video of the winning goal by Hlongwane is below.