Elrio van Heerden scored two minutes from full-time to salvage a 1-1 draw for South Africa against Angola on Wednesday in another 2008 African Nations Cup Group D thriller.
In the first part of a opening-round double-header, Tunisia snatched a late goal to draw 2-2 with Senegal and the four teams will enter the second series here on Sunday with one point each.
Substitute Van Heerden from Belgian outfit Club Bruges latched on to a pass from Teko Modise, drifted past a defender and fired an unstoppable shot over goalkeeper Luis ”Lama” Joao.
It was no less than 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa deserved as they won far more possession than their regional rivals only to be let down once again by poor finishing.
Manchester United-bound Mateus ”Manucho” Goncalves headed Angola into a 29th-minute lead and cleared the ball off the line in the closing stages when South Africa captain Aaron Mokoena thought he had equalised.
No team arrived in Ghana more desperate to impress than South Africa after descending from champs to chumps in a 12-year freefall that transformed them from feared foes to the laughing stock of the continent.
Bafana Bafana won the 1996 title in their first appearance and finished second and third in the next two editions, followed by a quarterfinals exit to minnows Mali and two first-round departures.
Coaches Carlos Alberto Parreira of South Africa and Luis Oliveira Goncalves were set a minimum target of reaching the knockout phase, and with higher seeds Tunisia and Senegal to come, victory was considered crucial.
South Africa were superior in the early stages, passing fluently and creating openings, and midfielder Modise stung the hands of Joao with a shot the giant goalkeeper parried before clearing.
Angola dangerman Flavio Amado from five-time African club champions Al-Ahly was way off target with his first attempt at goal on a hot night at a 20 000-seater stadium built for the Nations Cup.
The Angolan striker suffered a bad gash to his forehead when colliding with defender Benson Mhlongo and was off the pitch for 10 minutes while South Africa continued to press.
However, the old Bafana Bafana failing of ineffective finishing was evident and for all the possession they enjoyed, Joao and his red-shirted defenders were rarely troubled.
Amado dropped a hint of things to come by finding himself in a one-on-one situation, but delayed too long and goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs comfortably dealt with the shot.
Surprise Moriri blazed a half-chance wide at the other end before Angola snatched the lead as Amado controlled a Yamba Asha pass with his chest and crossed for Goncalves to power a looping header into the net.
While South Africa were weaving pretty patterns to no real effect, Angola scored for the first time in three Nations Cup matches against them through simple, direct football.
Sibusiso Zuma, captain of the ill-fated 2006 Nations Cup team, headed wide toward the end of a first half in which South Africa had more possession, forced four corners without reply, but trailed were it mattered most.
Parreira, long criticised by the South Africa media for his one-striker approach, opted for more adventure after half-time by introducing Thembinkosi ”Terror” Fanteni and Lerato Chabangu.
As the second half progressed, it mirrored the first with South Africa pushing forward without real menace while Angola looked dangerous every time they counter-attacked.
From one Angolan breakaway, an Amado back heel set substitute Nsimba ”Ze Kalanga” Baptista free down the middle and his powerful shot did not finish far off target.
With nine minutes to go, Modise broke clear and let loose with a trademark drive that proved too hot for Joao, but his parry was cleared, and when Mokoena thought he had levelled, the referee felt otherwise. — Sapa-AFP