More crucial points in the bag as the road becomes just a little more clearer for Bafana Bafana in their quest for a 2022 World Cup berth.
With their 1-0 win over Ethiopia on Tuesday night, South Africa not only completed the double over the east Africa rivals, but Bafana reduced the contest in Group G to just two, with Ghana also still in it.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Black Stars edged Zimbabwe 1-0 to keep their dreams alive.
Following Tuesday’s match day of Africa World Cup qualifiers, it means the Ethiopians and the Warriors have been eliminated as only the winners across the 10 groups will advance to the third and final round.
Bafana cannot afford to take their foot off the pedal as their home tie against Zimbabwe on November 11 remains a must-win as Ghana are lurking at second just a point adrift of group leaders South Africa.
Bafana still have to play Ghana away.
Tuesday night’s match was a game where Bafana rode their luck given how the Ethiopians wasted several scoring opportunities each time they surged into the hosts’ goal area.
Similarly, Bafana had their own opportunities to extend the scoreline, but they rushed into those chances.
Also, South African attackers fell for the Walia Stars’ offside trap many times. On the occasions Bafana broke through, luck deserted them like when Evidence Makgopa’s effort was cleared off the line shortly after the half-time break.
But Burundian referee Georges Gatogato also made some questionable decisions, including when he denied the home side what looked a clear penalty when Bongokuhle Hlongwane was tripped inside the box in the late quarter of the second half.
But it is the unpredictability of Bafana coach Hugo Broos that came to the fore again last night.
The Belgian made four changes to the team that won 3-1 away in Bahir Dar at the weekend – Njabulo Ngcbobo was introduced in central midfield for scorer in the first leg, Mothobi Mvala. Other changes were those of Yusuf Maart for Ethan Brooks, while Letsoalo started ahead of Thabiso Kutumela and Evidence Makgopa in the place of Tshegofatso Mabasa.
The hosts applied early pressure and were duly rewarded when Letsoalo’s header from a corner kick was deflected into the net by the visitors’ captain Getaneh Kebede.
Despite the relentless attacks from the Ethiopians, the crowd that turned out last night kept the home side going.
It was the first time in 18 months that the fans were allowed at a local soccer match.
However, entry was limited to a maximum of 2 000 people and was only reserved for the fully vaccinated, subject to proof of inoculation.
With scanners in hand, the marshals ensured that the procedure was followed to the end and those who could not provide proof of vaccination were denied entry, including some of the media personnel.