Mphela cleverly curled a shot wide of the opposing goalkeeper in the 77th minute to level the score at 1-1 but there will be questions about the future of coach Pitso Mosimane, who had said before the match only a win would do.
“We were surprised by them,” said South African captain Steven Pienaar of opponents 71 places below them in the FIFA rankings. “They came with nothing to lose.”
Ethiopia, who in four decades of World Cup qualifying had only won once away, took the lead just before the half-hour mark with a powerful shot from Said Saladin.
His goal delighted several thousand expatriate Ethiopian fans, whose cheering dominated a near-empty stadium at Rustenburg.
The decline in South Africa’s fortunes since hosting the 2010 World Cup, including missing out on qualifying for the 2012 African Nations Cup finals because they misread the rules, meant only around 5 000 spectators turned up in contrast to the festivities of two years ago.
South Africa failed to qualify for the Nations Cup after losing out in a three-way tie at the top of their group because they thought goal difference was the decidinga factor when, in fact, it was head-to-head record. – Reuters