JOHANNESBURG: Striker Katlego Mphela scored three minutes into injury time to steal a 1-0 win for South Africa over Egypt in their African Cup of Nations qualifier at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Mphela fired a low shot across goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary with just seconds remaining to give Bafana Bafana a first-ever win over the seven-time African champions in a competitive international.
Egypt carved out the better chances in a tight game as defender Mahmoud Fathala powered a header just over the crossbar from a 32nd-minute corner and Mohamed Shawki missed from close range after another corner in the second half.
South Africa struggled to break down a resolute Egypt defense until Anele Ngcongca slipped a pass through for Mphela to hit the dramatic winner.
"What a moment, history for South Africa," Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane said. "It was a mentally exhausting game."
The victory extends South Africa’s lead at the top of Group G to four points ahead of Niger, which plays Sierra Leone on Sunday.
Defending Cup of Nations champions Egypt stay rooted to the bottom of the group with a single point from three games and in danger of missing out on the African championship for the first time since 1965.
The Pharaohs have won the last three tournaments.
The Egyptians, who endured a troubled buildup to the tie following the political turmoil back home, created a string of goal-scoring opportunities.
Fathala’s header had coach Hassan Shehata out of his seat on the touchline. Mahmoud Shikabala forced Bafana ‘keeper Itumeleng Khune into a sharp save low to his left straight after halftime and Abd Rabo sent a curling right-foot free kick just past the post.
Shawki missed from right in front of the goal when he sliced Ahmed Fathy’s corner wide.
El-Hadary pulled off a double save from Mphela with 20 minutes to go as South Africa finally threatened. But the Egypt captain was helpless when Mphela outpaced the defense after Ngcongca’s through ball and found the far corner with his late shot.
"I knew it was coming," Mphela said. "I was waiting for that pass."