South Africa defeated Zambia 1-0 in their Africa Cup of Nations warm-up friendly at the Orlando Stadium on Sunday afternoon, with Thuso Phala scoring the only goal of the game on 81 minutes.
It was a lethargic and uninspired match in the baking heat of Soweto, but Bafana Bafana will still take great value from defeating a Chipolopolo team that won the continental championships just over three years ago.
South Africa coach Shakes Mashaba opted to rest his best central midfielder partnership of Andile Jali and Dean Furman, but otherwise it was a near full strength XI for the hosts.
Neither side managed any notable attempt on goal in the first 45 minutes, though Zambia were certainly the better team going forward and looked to enjoy more fluency and energy in the final third of the field.
South Africa’s only real glimpse at a goal in the first half arrived on the 20 minute mark when striker Tokelo Rantie almost caught goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene in possession, but the Mamelodi Sundowns player just about avoided embarrassment.
However, Mweene suffered an injury just before the break and was replaced by Danny Munyao – Zambia will hope the goalkeeper’s injury does not rule him out of the upcoming Afcon tournament.
On the hour mark, Bafana created the first clear chance of the match when Rantie and Anele Ngcongca burst through Zambia’s defence and the latter saw his shot deflected over the top from close range by Munyao.
Fifteen minutes later it was Zambia’s turn to miss out on a great opportunity after Erick Mathoho was caught in possession, but James Chamanga was unable to direct his shot on target with substitute goalkeeper Brilliant Khuzwayo having been drawn off his line.
The match looked set to end in a goalless stalemate until the 81st minute when Sibusiso Vilakazi put Thuso Phala in on goal and the SuperSport United winger broke the deadlock with a powerful shot that bounced down off the underside of the crossbar before crossing the goal line.
Phala should have made it 2-0 six minutes later after powerful work from Rantie created another opener for the goal scorer, but this time he dragged his shot wide of the target with only the ‘keeper to beat.
South Africa (0) 1 (Phala 81′)
SA: Keet, Ngcongca, Mathoho, Coetzee, Matlaba, Letsholonyane, Sangweni, Masango, Manyisa, Ndulula, Rantie
Subs used: Parker, Zwane, Vilakazi, Khuzwayo, Phala, Hlatshwayo
Zambia: Mweene, Nkausu, Kabwe, Mtonga, Sunzu, Sinkala, Lungu, Musonda, Kalaba, Singuluma, Mayuka
Subs used: Munyao, Munthali, Chamanga, M. Mulenga, Mwanza, Sautu
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