Bafana throw away a two-goal lead to draw with Zambia
Augustine Mulenga scored a stoppage time goal to deny Bafana Bafana their first win in East London on Saturday and earn Zambia a well deserved 2-2 draw in an African Nations Championship (Chan) qualifier.
In the two previous games Bafana played in East London, they were beaten 1-0 by Zimbabwe in 2003 in the Cosafa Cup and were held to a goalless draw by Angola in a friendly in March.
The South Africans spurned a 2-0 lead in this third-round (final stage before the Kenya 2018) qualifier.
Bafana started the brightest at Buffalo City Stadium with Gift Motupa, Ryan Moon and Dumisani Zuma impressive upfront.
Bafana attacked relentlessly as they searched for an early goal but Chipolopolo captain Ziyo Tembo and his fellow defenders protected goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata well.
While SA played combinations, Zambia played more direct football, hoping to catch Stuart Baxter’s charges on the counterattack.
But their woeful shooting failed to trouble Kaizer Chiefs keeper Bruce Bvuma between the sticks.
While Bvuma had a quiet first half, Nsabata was called into action several times with Motupa and Moon forcing saves from the Zambian.
Nsabata, who struggled to deal with crosses, gifted Bafana a goal when he failed to hang on to what should have been a training ground aerial take from a Moon corner.
Motupa needed no second invitation and headed in from close range in the 39th minute.
Bafana suffered a forced substitution when Wiseman Meyiwa was introduced in the 33rd minute in midfield in place of the injured Sibusiso Kumalo.
Jamie Webber, Jabulani Shongwe and Meyiwa were at times a marvel to watch in the middle of the park as they dictated the pace of the game well.
Bafana could have doubled their lead on the stroke of half time but Moon was too casual and had his shot blocked after some good work from Motupa, who cut the ball behind defenders.
The Zambians must have had a tongue-lashing from coach Wedson Nyirenda during the break as they came back more determined.
But it was the hosts who were rewarded when captain Mario Booysen tapped in from close range after the Zambians failed to clear their lines.
However, it did not take long for Zambia to pull one back when Martin Phiri met a cross on the far post to head past Bvuma minutes after coming on.
Their goal gave Chipolopolo confidence and they started to launch wave after wave of attacks as play opened up.
Augustine Mulenga and Justin Shonga managed to turn Asavela Mbekile and Booysen but their finishing let them down.
The Bafana defence was put under pressure by the Zambians but, despite some poor defending, the visitors failed to make Bvuma work.
Bafana defender Tercious Malepe was red-carded in the 90th minute after receiving yellow cards minutes apart for time-wasting and dangerous play.
Mulenga broke the thousands of South African fans' hearts when he scored the equaliser in stoppage time.
Bafana travel to Zambia in the coming weekend for the return leg.