Bafana beat Ethiopia as they push for World Cup qualification
Bafana Bafana beat Ethiopia 3-1 in a 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier on Saturday to strengthen their grip at the top of Group G.
After a hard fought 3-1 win in front of a few hundred vaccinated fans in Bahir Dar, Bafana lead the group on seven points at the halfway mark of the first round of the qualifying campaign for Qatar.
Bafana went into the match on four points after they started their campaign with a goalless draw against Zimbabwe in Harare and a 1-0 win over Ghana in Johannesburg.
A first-half goal from midfielder Teboho Mokoena and second-half strikes by his central midfield partner, Mothobi Mvala, and substitute striker Evidence Makgopa put Bafana in pole position to finish as group winners.
Getaneh Kebede cancelled out Mokoena’s goal in the 67th minute but Mvala regained the lead for Bafana four minutes later.
While Ethiopia continued to threaten SA’s goal, they could not claw their way back and Makgapa punished them on the stroke of full time.
Hugo Broos’s team will look to race away from their rivals in the return match at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg at 6pm on Tuesday, when they will be cheered on by an expected 2,000 vaccinated supporters.
Bafana had a bright start but were disorientated as soon as Ethiopia found their groove and wrestled possession of the ball with their signature short passing game.
The home side posed a threat from the first minute and were allowed to spray their short passes throughout the match.
Ethiopia could have scored more than the one goal but they were denied by the brilliance of Bafana captain Ronwen Williams, who made several saves.
Now the Belgian coach and his team will look to complete the double over the east Africans on Tuesday and move to 10 points ahead of the final two qualifiers against Ghana away and Zimbabwe at home in November.
Bafana flew back to Johannesburg immediately after the match and will start preparing in Soweto for the return match.
Africa has 10 groups in the qualifying campaign and the 10 group winners will be drawn into five head-to-head, two-legged for one of the five places at the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East.
Ethiopia have never qualified for the World Cup finals while Bafana are looking for their fourth participation after appearances in 1998, 2002, and as hosts in 2010.
Bafana missed out on qualification for the Brazil and Russia tournaments in 2014 and 2018 respectively.