South Africa 1-0 Zimbabwe: Bafana beat Warriors, open three point lead over Ghana
Marvelous Nakamba Zimbabwe Teboho Mokoena South Africa
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In an earlier Group G match on Thursday, Ethiopia came from a goal down to hold the Black Stars to a 1-1 draw in their match at Orlando Stadium

South Africa held on doggedly for a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Zimbabwe at FNB Stadium on Thursday night.

The game between South Africa and Zimbabwe marked the return of Keagan Dolly to the Bafana side, and he proved the difference by providing a pin-point assist for the only goal of the night, scored by SuperSport midfielder Teboho Mokoena.

The game got off to a lively start, with both sides looking energetic and positive in possession. Just after the 10-minute mark, Kaizer Chiefs playmaker Dolly began to exert his influence for the home side, starting with a clever through-ball for Bongokuhle Hlongwane, who cleverly took the ball on the turn, but was unable to get a shot away.

Moments later Dolly nearly threaded in Evidence Makgopa, just failing to pick out the Baroka striker in front of goal with a right-footed cross.

At the other end, Ismael Wadi was doing his best to make things happen for the Warriors but was well dealt with by Terrence Mashego, the Cape Town City left-back.

It was soon Dolly’s turn to torment the Zim defence again, and this time he made it count as his sumptuous cross in the 26th minute found Mokoena, who looped in a superb header at the far post.

A couple of minutes later Hlongwane nearly got on the end of a cross, while for Zimbabwe, Khama Billiat was off target with a free-kick.

The visiting side started the second half with purpose, with Wadi drawing a foul from Mashego, resulting in Billiat whipping in a dangerous free-kick which drew a good diving save from Ronwen Williams.

Blessing Sarupinda then wasted a chance to score in the 49th minute after he somehow managed to put the ball over an empty net from just a metre or two out, although his embarrassment was tempered by the offside flag going up.

Having survived the initial onslaught from their northern neighbours, Bafana started to look for the security of a second goal and Dolly was close with his first-time curling effort from 20-yards out after being set up by substitute Fagrie Lakay, but Zimbabwe keeper Petros Mhari did well to tip the ball over the bar.

More openings followed for South Africa as Thibang Phete had his header saved, following a Percy Tau cross in the 66th minute before Hlongwane skied a good chance after being teed up by Dolly eight minutes later.

Marvellous Nakamba then squandered a chance to pull one back for the visitors, although South Africa could also have added a second goal as Lakay rifled a powerful shot from outside the box inches wide in the 87th minute before Hlongwane just failed to steer a diving header on target and also had a thumping 30-yard piledriver fly into the crossbar – via the fingertips of Mhari, in the 90th minute.

Ultimately though Hugo Broos’ side deserved the win and can now travel to Ghana knowing that a draw will guarantee them a spot in the final play-off round – home and away against one of the other nine group winners.