Two stunning first-half strikes from Teko Modise set Rustenburg’s Olympia Park aglitter on Wednesday before Bernard Parker’s scrambled goal late on gave Bafana Bafana a famous win over Cameroon in the Nelson Mandela Challenge.
The goals from Modise set the hosts on their way, but defensive lapses allowed the Indomitable Lions to claw their way back into the contest to make the half-time score 2-2.
Parker netted the third in the 81th minute and South Africa should have won by a greater margin as Modise missed a late penalty.
Joel Santana made just one change to the team that defeated Ghana last month as Itumeleng Khune came in for Brian Baloyi.
But it took Modise just six minutes to make his mark on the match as his rocket of a shot from long range gave Carlos Kameni no chance.
Siphiwe Tshabalala and Benni McCarthy both deserve credit as they put the Indomitable Lions’ defence under intense pressure in their own area.
The near capacity crowd burst into a stirring rendition of shozholoza as Bafana Bafana immediately looked to consolidate their lead.
McCarthy often dropped deep looking for work while MacBeth Sibaya and Matthew Booth snapped at the heels of the West Africans.
The slick and wet outfield was a welcome relief from the cabbage patches Bafana usually play on, and the conditions suited Santana’s team’s cut-and-thrust style.
But it was Cameroon who created a half-chance after 17-minutes when Khune flapped at a corner and he was fortunate that the imposing figure of Booth was around to clear the danger.
Modise doubled South Africa’s lead after 24-minutes as he drove from deep before passing the ball to Benni McCarthy.
The Blackburn striker showed his class when his nifty return via a backheel landed at the feet of the Orlando Pirates icon.
The Cameroonian defence forced Modise out wide, but he conjured up a perfectly-placed shot with his weaker left-foot to beat Kameni once again.
Just two minutes later Modise attempted to repay the favour by playing McCarthy through, but his pass was just too long for Bafana’s record goal-scorer.
Cameroon survived this siege and scored their opening goal of the match in the 27th minute when Daniel Kome‘s missile from a free-kick slashed Bafana’s lead in half.
Modise, who was on a hat-trick, attempted an outrageous shot from 30-metres five minutes later. Kameni dived to his right to stop the ball, before spilling it dangerously close to the upright to concede a corner.
And on 35-minutes Otto Pfister’s men were on level terms when Kome turned provider. His inswinging delivery from a set-piece eluded the Bafana defence and Somen A Tchoyi headed in past Khune at the back post.
Santana was forced into a substitution five minutes before the interval as the visitors robust physical approach started taking a toll.
Siyabonga Nkosi hobbled off with an injury, with crowd favourite Bernard Parker coming on for the Arminia Bielefeld midfielder.
McCarthy was withdrawn at half time and his replacement, Katlego Mphela, took just five minutes to make his intentions known by firing off a snap shot on the volley straight at Kameni.
Tshabalala forced a save out of the Espanyol goalkeeper seconds later and he again managed to hang on to the effort.
Khune made a world-class reflex save a couple of minutes thereafter as Eric Djemba-Djemba‘s glancing header required sharp movement from the young shot-stopper.
Augustin Binya conceded a free-kick on the hour mark that was within striking distance and Modise stepped up in search of his third goal of the night. But South Africa’s number 12 never really controlled the effort and the ball went sailing way over the crossbar.
The hosts created another chance on 65-minutes and again Modise was in the thick of the action. Parker chested the ball into the midfielder’s path and he took a pop at goal that streaked wide of the target.
Both coaches made a few changes in their personnel which had an adverse impact on the rhythm of the match.
The quality of the football diminished somewhat midway through the half as the contest entered a scrappy period. The low light of this spell came when Modest M’Bami was cautioned after his high boot hit Mphela in the face.
The Mamelodi Sundowns striker was stretchered off the park with what appeared to be a gash on the head and Thulasizwe Mbuyane came on in his place.
With nine minutes left on the clock Modise again changed the course of the game. His long ball from the right flank found Parker in the area and the Thanda Royal Zulu skipper’s shot was blocked by Kameni.
Mbuyane’s follow-up on the rebound was also parried by the keeper but Parker was lurking and he knocked the ball into the back of the net to give Bafana the lead for the third time. It was the 22-year-old’s fourth goal in as many matches for his country this season.
M’Bami ensured he was the villain of the piece for the Lions when he fouled Modise in the area with two minutes to play. The ref awarded a penalty, but a fine save from Kameni denied Modise of what would have been a glorious hat-trick and saved M’Bami’s blushes somewhat.
Although Cameroon threw all their men forward in the dying seconds, Bafana Bafana secured a morale-boosted victory in their last fixture of 2008, and Santana will be hoping that the New Year starts as this year ended.
South Africa-Cameroon (3-2)
Goals : Teko Modise (7′, 24′) and Scott Parker (81′) for Bafana; Daniel Ngom Kome (28′), Somen A Tchoyi (36′) for Cameroon.
South Africa: Itumeleng Khune – Siboniso Gaxa, Matthew Booth, Aaron Mokoena (cap.), Tsepo Masilela – Teko Modise, Lance Davids, Macbeth Sibaya (Kagiso Dikgacoi, 84e), Siphiwe Tshabalala – Siyabonga Nkosi (Scott Parker, 39′), Benedict McCarthy (Katlego Mphela, 46′, Thulasizwe Mbuyane, 73′).
Cameroun: Carlos Kameni – Augustine Binya, Nkoulou Nicolas, Alexis Ngambi, Ndjana Kana – Modeste Mbami, Eric Djemba Djemba, Jean Makoun (Essame, 58′) Somen Tchoyi (Songo’o, 73′) Daniel Ngom Komè and Albert Ze Meyong (Webo, 52′).