Senegal booked their place at the 2018 Fifa World Cup with a 2-0 win over South Africa at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Friday evening.
In what was a replay of the fixture exactly 12 months ago – the Lions of Teranga made no mistake as they sealed their return to the world stage for the first time since 2002.
Defeat brought an end to Bafana Bafana’s hopes of reaching next year’s showpiece in Russia, with Diafra Sakho’s early strike and Thamsanqa Mkhize’s unfortunate own goal painting a rather gloomy picture.
The Lions of Teranga silenced the home crowd as early as the 12th minute with English Premier League duo Sakho and Sadio Manè linking up for the game’s opener.
Bafana Bafana were guilty of ball watching, and with the Liverpool man offered time and space he made the hosts pay: slipping a defence-splitting pass to the West Ham United forward who finished with aplomb.
The hosts’ first shot in anger fell to Themba Zwane in the 25th minute, with Khadim Ndiaye punching the Mamelodi Sundowns man’s effort straight at Brazilians teammate Percy Tau, but he failed to control the ball as Senegal escaped.
Lebogang Manyama came within inches of leveling matters four minutes later, but he was desperately unlucky to see his powerful effort canon off the crossbar.
The Lions of Teranga then provided the sucker punch in the 39th minute – completely against the run of play.
Manè was the protagonist once more and after his shot from point-blank range was brilliantly kept out by Itumeleng Khune Mkhize could do nothing but direct the rebound into the back of his own net. The Cape Town City fullback desperately unlucky to see the ball cross the line in the most bizarre fashion.
Manyama threatened to pull a goal back for Bafana Bafana before the break, but the Senegalese goal-minder was up to the task with Stuart Baxter’s men left a mountain to climb.
South Africa dominated ball possession from the get go in the second half, but came up against a Senegal unit happy to sit deep and absorb pressure.
Having huffed and puffed, Sibusiso Vilakazi finally found an opening, but his shot was straight at the Lions of Teranga shot-stopper in the 57th minute.
Bafana Bafana were finding it increasingly difficult to break down what was a very stubborn Senegalese outfit with the West African nation happy to hit their hosts on the counter.
Baxter duly introduced Siphiwe Tshabalala and Bradley Grobler in the latter exchanges of the clash, but neither could provide the necessary spark.
With their fate sealed, South Africa looked a defeated outfit in the closing stages as Senegal sealed their place at next year’s world showpiece with relative ease.
The reverse fixture in Dakar next Tuesday will now be a mere formality with proceedings in Group D already decided.
South Africa (0) 0
Senegal (2) 2 (Sakho 12′ Mkhize OG 39′)
South Africa: Khune; Hlanti, Daniels, Gould, Mkhize – Furman, Mokotjo, Zwane (Tshabalala 69′) – Vilakazi (Grobler 83′) – Manyama (Jali 63′), Tau.
Senegal: K.Ndiaye, Gassama, Kouyate (A. Ndiaye 86′), Koulibaly, Sabaly – Sanè, Gueye , Ndoye – Manè, Niang (Ciss 90+3′), Sakho (Konatè 78′).
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