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Bafana Bafana overcome the odds to beat Liberia and qualify for 2023 Africa Cup of Nations

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Mihlali Mayambela scored the winner as South Africa beat Liberia on Tuesday to qualify for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

Mihlali Mayambela scored the winning goal in Tuesday’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Liberia.
FILE – Mihlali Mayambela scored the winning goal in Tuesday’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Liberia. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Durban — Bafana Bafana produced a spirited performance to overcome Liberia 2-1 at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex on Tuesday, in the process booking their place at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

South Africa ensured they will definitely finish above Liberia regardless of the results against Morocco for both teams and will return to the continental showpiece for the first time since 2019.

Zakhele Lepasa, who surprisingly started the game ahead of Lyle Forster, who scored twice against Liberia last Friday, broke the deadlock for Bafana with a well-taken goal in the 19th minute.

The 26-year-old forward was delightfully played through over the top of the Liberia defence, and after composing himself, did well to guide home against an on-rushing goalkeeper, putting the visitors in the driving seat.

The extremely hot conditions on the artificial surface seemed to take its toll on Bafana with each minute and they allowed the home side back into the game through Willem Jebor.

The Malta-based forward picked up the ball outside the penalty area and struck an awkward shot towards Ronwen Williams, whose fumble saw the ball trickle into the back of the net.

Another one of coach Hugo Broos’ expert changes also garnered further rewards as Mihlali Mayambela restored Bafana’s lead early in the second half.

The Cyprus-based winger started the move from out left and combined with Percy Tau, the Al Ahly forward’s low cross was fumbled by the Liberia goalkeeper and Mayambela was there to pounce for his second international goal.

A much-changed Bafana sought to right the wrongs of a disappointing encounter against the Lone Stars last Friday.

With the knowledge that his team needed victory to qualify, Broos prompted a reaction, making five changes to the starting lineup that drew at the Orlando Stadium.

Nyiko Mobbie, Mihlali Mayambela and Sphephelo Sithole replaced Aubrey Modiba, Themba Zwane and Luuk LeRoux in midfield among those changes, looking for fresh ideas.

The opening 15 minutes saw Bafana attempt to play on the front foot, inflicting a high press and trying to utilise space down the wings with the speed of Thapelo Morena and Mayambela.

All of the visitors’ attempts were in vain however, as they did little to trouble Tommy Songo’s goal with a few shots from range.

The first half saw Liberia edge possession stakes in what was a highly-contested affair, while SA seemed to create the better half chances but the scores were level going into halftime.

Following Mayambela’s early second-half goal, the Liberians upped the ante and pushed Bafana further back into their own half.

Broos also introduced Mamelodi Sundowns centre-back Grant Kekana for Sithole in the final 10 minutes of the game as he sought to see out the match.

@ScribeSmiso

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