The Amajita national men’s U20 football side grabbed a crucial away goal as they held hosts Mozambique to a 1-1 draw in the first-leg second round of the Caf U20 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the weekend.
The match was played at the Campo de Ferroviaro da Beira in Beira City, Mozambique.
South Africa started on the back foot as they were playing their first game together. Head coach Thabo Senong included five players who graduated from the Amajimbos U17 side – Khulekani Kubheka, Malebogo Modise, Wiseman Meyiwa, Kobamelo Kodisang and Lyle Foster.
The home side enjoyed good support from the crowd but didn’t do much to hurt the visitors – even though they looked good on the ball as they were playing in their third qualifier. Mozambique had beaten the Seychelles 6-0 in the last round.
Following an uneventful first half, there was more action in the second stanza as both sides went in search of a win.
Foster was the first to get a chance in the 53rd minute after his ferocious shot was parried out for a corner by Julio in the Mambinhas goals.
But Julio could do nothing when Tashreeq Matthews found himself alone in the box following a delightful pass from Siphesihle Mkhize, and he made no mistake to put South Africa in the lead in the 61st minute – scoring that vital away goal in the process.
Kodisang could have increased the lead two minutes later but with the keeper to beat, shot wide.
In the 82nd minute, Amajita keeper Kubheka was beaten by an unlucky bounce as he had Kamo-Kamo’s shot covered but it went past him to restore parity – and give voice to the fans who had by now become silent.
Three minutes from time, Matthews could have grabbed his second of the day and perhaps win the game for Amajita, but he ballooned his shot over the top.
Kodisang also had a chance to grab the winner in the 89th minute – and again with the keeper to beat, shot straight at Julio, saving the day for the host nation.
Mozambique could also have found the winning goal in the referee’s optional time – with Kubheka stranded in no-man’s land, Goodwill Khupe stopped the ball on the line and it ended 1-1.
Amajita now have a training session on Monday morning at the University of Johannesburg, Soweto Campus before travelling to Rustenburg in the afternoon to continue with preparations for the second leg, scheduled for this Sunday at Moruleng Stadium. Kick-off is at 3pm.
In the event of a 1-1 all draw after full time, a penalty shootout will ensue to determine the winner.
The overall winner between the two nations will face the victors in the clash between Malawi and Angola, with the winner securing their spot in the eight-nation U20 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Niger, set for 24 February to 12 March.
The top four teams in Niger will represent the African continent at the 2019 Fifa U20 World Cup in Poland.
This is how Amajita lined up:
South Africa U20:
Khulekani Kubheka (GK) (c), Siphesihle Mkhize, Malebogo Modise, Givemore Khupe, Thabo Moloisane, Njabulo Blom, Wiseman Meyiwa, Kobamelo Kodisang, Tashreeq Matthews, Nkosingiphile Ngcobo (Duncan Adonis), Lyle Foster.
Subs: Glen Baadjies (GK), Luke Fleurs, Jesse Donn, Reece Vetter, Promise Mkhuma, Shungu Dutiro, Duncan Adonis.
Head coach: Thabo Senong