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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Hosts South Africa defeat Senegal on penalties to win 2021 COSAFA Cup

South Africa’s Bafana Bafana triumphed over Senegal in the final of the 2021 COSAFA Cup via a penalty kick shootout after the teams dueled to a scoreless draw in regulation on Sunday, making it South Africa’s fifth COSAFA Cup title. The match was tense and physical throughout its 120 minutes but Bafana Bafana edged out the Lions of Teranga 5-4 in the shootout after Senegalese goalkeeper Pape Ndiaye sent his spot kick high and wide when the shootout went to sudden death.

Both teams showed excellent defensive organization throughout the competition and the theme prevailed, with chances few and far between and physical play leading to a match with a heavy foul count. Set pieces and speculative efforts were the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock and penalties appeared to be more and more of an inevitability as the match wore on.

In the first twenty minutes each team had their opening opportunities from free kicks, Mohamed Ba heading high and wide from a Dominique Mendy service in the 15th minute and a long free kick from South Africa being handled comfortably by Ndiaye a few minutes later. Tournament leading scorer Victor Letsoalo had a couple of chances in the opening stanza but nodded a long throw in from Yusuf Maart before the Bloemfontein Celtic striker took down a chipped through ball and put his volley into the side netting. A Senegalese corner kick at the end of the half led to a Ba header that beat Bafana keeper Veli Mothwa but was headed off the line by a defender without being too threatening.

The second half saw very few opportunities until the last twenty minutes of regulation. Ba unleashed a sharp effort from beyond the corner of the South Africa penalty area but Mothwa parried wide. Defender Njabulo Ngcobo had the best look for either side in the 71st minute when a free kick service from Siyethemba Sithebe was contested by multiple players and fell down to Ngcobo’s feet, but the Swallows FC player put his shot right at Ndiaye, who held without conceding a rebound. Senegal gave the ball away in a dangerous area in the 80th minute but excellent desperation defending prevented Bafana from putting a shot on target.

Extra time saw neither side threaten in particular as Senegal maintained a defensive posture to hold out for penalties, succeeding in keeping South Africa from finding a winning goal. It was off to penalty kicks and the shootout was tense with both teams showing excellent composure. Ethan Brooks of South Africa had his shot saved on Bafana’s third attempt, but Mothwa stepped up to save Senegal’s fourth effort from Mendy before stepping up to convert a clutch penalty kick himself.

The teams were even after their five attempts and extra kicks determined the winner. On South Africa’s sixth attempt, Mamelodi Sundowns left back Nyiko Mobbie’s chest high kick saw Ndiaye guess correctly, but despite getting a hand to the ball the ASC Jaraaf keeper could not get a strong enough touch to keep the shot out. Ndiaye stepped up to the spot for Senegal’s sixth attempt but put his effort high, wide and not so pretty to give Bafana Bafana the title at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on the annual holiday honoring the former South African leader and president.

Highlights of South Africa’s title winning match are below. Earlier in the day Eswatini defeated Mozambique on penalty kicks to clinch third place.