Bongani Ndulula enhanced his reputation as one of the best young strikers on the continent with a brace in a 2-0 win over Zimbabwe on Saturday in an All-Africa Games qualifier.
The tall, dreadlocked Orlando Pirates footballer broke the deadlock five minutes before half-time in a third round, first-leg clash at a cold, windy Sinaba Stadium in this township on the eastern border of Johannesburg.
His second goal arrived 11 minutes from full-time and rewarded persistent pressure by the home team, who would not have been flattered by a four-goal victory margin ahead of the return match in Harare next month.
Ndulula also scored two goals for the national under-23 team last weekend in a 5-1 drubbing of Benin in a 2012 London Olympic Games qualifier as South Africa reached the last-eight stage.
The goals against Zimbabwe made Ndulula leading scorer in the All-Africa Games elimination competition with six — one more than Zimbabwean Simba Sithole — after scoring all four in a home win against Malawi.
Sithole, who has reportedly signed a five-year contract with Pretoria club Mamelodi Sundowns, was closely policed by a dominant South African defence and never troubled goalkeeper Boalefa Pule.
Success over Zimbabwe would take South Africa to the All-Africa Games finals during September in Mozambique.
“We should have scored more goals after putting Zimbabwe under so much pressure but over-elaboration and wild finishing let us down,” admitted South Africa coach Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba.
Zimbabwe coach Friday Phiri was upbeat despite seeing his outclassed team escape lightly: “We are going to recover at home and win the tie after conceding two soft goals here.”
It took 35 minutes for the match to liven up with Phumelele Bhengu wasting a good chance through poor control, but Ndulula was more clinical as he lobbed a weak back pass over goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda and into the net.
The second half was a procession toward the Zimbabwe goalmouth and the visitors finally cracked when a Themba Zwane run created space inside the penalty area for Ndulula to fire home.
A sporting encounter between neighbouring countries turned ugly in the final minute with Devon Chafa guilty of a reckless tackle that felled an opponent and he was shown a red card by the Botswana referee. – AFP