Holland-based forward Michael Dokunmu scored the winner with 14 minutes left as South Africa beat COSAFA rivals Zambia 3-2 in a five-goal thriller in Constantine on Wednesday to resuscitate their hopes of making it into the last eight of the TotalEnergies U17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Zambia had rallied from 2-0 down to tie the game at 2-2 with a brace from Emmanuel Mwanza, but South Africa had the final say in a thrilling tie to clinch their first win in Group B.
South Africa move to three points and in a good position to battle for one of two available automatic qualification slots. They will face Nigeria, also on three points, in their final match of the group.
Zambia will meanwhile take on already qualified Morocco in a match they must win to stand at least a chance of making it as one of the two best third placed teams.
South Africa, who lost their opening match to Morocco, had a good start and were 2-0 ahead after 31 minutes courtesy of Vicky Mkhawana’s brace.
He broke the deadlock after 12 minutes with a brilliant shot on the volley after a quick turn from almost 35 yards out.
In the 31st minute, he made it 2-0 when he ran on to a looped ball from Siyabonga Mabena, before sliding it past the keeper.
Zambia almost made a response two minutes later, but Obvious Mwaliteta’s header from a Mwanza freekick came off the base of the bar.
With his side struggling to have a footing in the match, Zambia coach Ian Bakala made changes after 40 minutes, Mwalileta and Charles Kampamba making way for Linecker Mbesuma and Samson Malaya.
With a better balance in midfield, Zambia halved the deficit right at the stroke of 45 minutes when Mwanza sneaked behind a South African defender to steal the ball off a long delivery into the box and volley past the keeper.
In the second half, the Zambians started as strong as they had ended the opening 45 and just three minutes in, Mwanza drew them level with a brilliant curling effort from the edge of the box.
Zambia took control of the game and had more chances with Marcel Zimba twice coming close but his efforts were wide.
On the other end, Mkhawana almost completed a hattrick when another clipped ball from Mabena found his run, but he fired inches wide.
His blushes were however wiped six minutes later when Dokonmu fired the winner from inside the box. The third goal deflated Zambia and they couldn’t mount a response.