Percy Tau (R) scored the two goals to steer South Africa to a 2-1 win over Libya to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted by Egypt.
Percy Tau (R) scored the two goals to steer South Africa to a 2-1 win over Libya to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted by Egypt.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

South Africa’s ‘lion’ Percy Tau scored a brilliant brace to book Bafana Bafana’s place at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals after a nervous 2-1 victory over Libya at a packed Stade Taïeb Mhiri in neutral Sfax, Tunisia on Sunday.

Bafana needed just a draw to seal their passage but will be delighted with a win in what was a hostile atmosphere with bottles raining onto the pitch in the second half as the Libyan fans sought to unsettle the South Africans.

Tau won the day with his brace, taking his goal tally in a national team jersey to nine, with seven in his last 10 caps, cementing his status as the key attacking weapon in the national team.

South Africa are the last of the 24 teams to qualify for the expanded Cup of Nations, with the finals to be held in Egypt from June 21 to July 19.

Bafana started with an all-Bidvest Wits back three of Thulani Hlatshwayo, Buhle Mkhwanazi and Sifiso Hlanti in front of goalkeeper Darren Keet, and wing-backs in the form of Thami Mkhize and Innocent Maela.

Dean Furman was handed a 50th cap in the midfield alongside Kamohelo Mokotjo and Themba Zwane, with Percy Tau and Lebo Mothiba forming the front-two.

Libya put the visitors under intense pressure early on in front of a packed crowd, who were roared on by the stadium announcer while the action continued on the pitch, creating a feverish din around the stadium.

Maela had a poor start to the game, picking up a booking inside the opening five minutes and then miscuing a rare chance at the back-post.

Libya had a clear sight of goal when Ali Elmusrati picked up the loose ball from a corner and blasted his shot from 10 yards, but Keet did well to hold on to the vicious effort.

Neat build-up from Bafana saw Tau set up Zwane, but his shot from the edge of the box was deflected for a corner by defender Mohamed El-Monir.

Mothiba had an excellent chance to open the scoring from a Tau corner, but could not wrap his foot around the ball three yards out and it went sailing well over the bar.

The teams went into the break all square, but came out with more purpose in the second period and after Mokotjo had won possession, on the edge of the box, Tau blasted the ball into the corner of the net on 50 minutes.

But Libya showed they were still a threat soon afterwards as Keet was forced to make a miraculous one-handed save to deny Hamdou Elhouni’s volley at the back post.

Keet pushed the ball on to Hlatshwayo, causing the Libyans to bay for a penalty that was correctly not given by Moroccan referee Noureddine El Jaafari, leading to objects to be thrown onto the pitch by the angry crowd.

Mothiba’s poor touch saw him lose an opportunity at the other end when he looked to race clear.

In the 64th minute, Libya were awarded a penalty when Keet left a boot high on substitute Saltou as he went to collect a ball into the box and Benali converted from the spot.

But Tau provided another excellent finish from a short-corner as South Africa worked space in the box expertly and the Belgium-based forward picked his spot into the far corner.

Tau had a superb chance to score his hat-trick when he was played through on goal, but with just the keeper to beat, put his shot wide of goal.

Libya continued to apply pressure, but their balls into the box were well dealt with by Keet, who despite his penalty mistake had by far his best game in a Bafana shirt.