Two goals in the space of two minutes by Gift Motupa presented South Africa with renewed hope of qualifying for the Olympics in Rio next year as the national U23 football side beat Zambia 3-2 at the CAF Nations Cup in Senegal on Tuesday.
Needing a win to remain in contention for a place in Rio, coach Owen da Gama made six changes to the side that lost 3-1 to hosts Senegal and will sleep a happy man after watching his side turn on the heat in an astonishing second half.
But they were made to wait nervously in the dying minutes as Zambia, who had pulled a goal back halfway into the second half, chased the elusive equalising goal.
The South Africans now meet Tunisia on Friday knowing a win will almost guarantee them a place in the last four.
In a match billed as the derby of the Cosafa region, it was South Africa who made a bright start but few scoring opportunities were created by either side.
Da Gama’s boys then surged forward in the 16th minute but Phakamani Mahlambi’s final product failed to trouble Toaster Nsabata in goals for Zambia.
As South Africa started to impose themselves, captain Keagan Dolly was at the heart of most of the attacks as they pinned Zambia in their own half.
Benedict Chepeshi then unleashed a rasping shot from a surprise counter attack but Jody February tipped the rising shot over the bar as Zambia manufactured their first really promising opportunity.
In the 33rd minute, Benson Sakala tried yet another long range shot as Zambia tried their luck from distance.
Zambia then took the lead with a sweet volley by Conlyde Luchanga after a great cross from right to put South Africa on the back foot in the 35th minute.
South Africa came out in the second half with all guns blazing and it didn’t take time for them to restore parity when Menzi Masuku completed a sweeping attack in the 47th minute.
From then on it was South Africa all the way with the forwards peppering the Zambia goal and it came as no surprise when Motupa scored two goals in the space of two minutes, first finishing off a good corner kick from the left with a glancing header and then racing free to complete a double in the 54th minute.
It was an extraordinary comeback from a side that went into the half time break trailing 1-0 and looking out of sorts.
Billy Mutale then pulled one for Zambia after the South African defence went to sleep.
There were some nervous closing minutes as Zambia chased the equaliser but AmaGlugGlug held firm. – See more at: