South Africa’s hopes of advancing into the final round of 2022 World Cup Qualifying were snuffed out on Sunday night when they lost 1-0 to Group G rivals Ghana at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium.
The result – secured by a highly-debatable penalty scored by Andre Ayew – left the Black Stars and Bafana level on 13 points and with the same goal difference (+4), but the West African side’s extra goal (7 to 6) through the course of six group matches proved the key tie breaker to send them through to the playoffs in March next year.
Ghana created all the early attacking pressure, but they suffered an injury blow when Mohammed Kudus limped off and was replaced by Daniel-Kofi Kyereh in just the 12th minute.
The hosts then had two great chances in the 14th and 16th minutes, with Jordan Ayew first closed down by Terrence Mashego when he looked set to net from a tight angle, before Kyereh sprung the offside trap but fired over when faced with only goalkeeper Ronwen Williams to beat.
Yet the Black Stars continued to build the pressure and they were rewarded with a soft penalty just after the half hour mark, as Daniel Amartey tumbled after minimal contact at a corner kick.
In his 100th appearance for Ghana, captain Andre Ayew struck home the spot kick to put the host 1-0 up on 33 minutes.
South Africa, stung by the goal, upped their game in what remained of the first half, but were nowhere near threatening Ghana goalkeeper Jojo Wollacott, leaving the game 1-0 in favour of the West Africans at the interval.
Bafana Bafana continued their improvement in the second half, but struggled to feed the likes of Percy Tau and Victor Letsoalo in danger areas, while Ghana always offered a threat on either the counter attack, or from set pieces.
Around the midway point of the second stanza SA had a free kick in a promising position and Tau whipped a dipping, left-footed shot on target, but Wollacott did well to save and smother the ball, with runners charging in and hoping to capitalise on any mistake.
The visitors made their first change in the 70th minute, with attacking midfielder Keagan Dolly replacing the more defensive-minded Ethan Brooks. The sub’s clever pass to Tau on 73 minutes ended with the striker tumbling under a challenge, but appeals for a penalty were waved away.
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On 78 minutes Ghana almost killed the game off when Kamaldeen Sulemana beat Williams to a long ball and just about managed to get a long range shot away, but the ball drifted just wide of the unguarded goal.
Bafana Bafana threw numbers forward in the dying minutes and forced Ghana to hang on with some desperate defending, but ultimately the hosts were able to hold out and claim a narrow victory to advance a step closer to Qatar 2022.