Friday Jun 03, 2022. 20:34
Eswatini scored a last-ditch equaliser to clinch a 2-2 draw against Togo in their opening 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the Stade de Kegue on Friday evening.
The Sparrowhawks were good value for their 1-0 lead at the break, courtesy of Meme Placca’s 20th-minute opener in Lome, but a late flurry of goals saw the match end in dramatic circumstances.
Sabelo Ndzinisa drew the King’s Shield level with six minutes left on the clock, only for Kodjo Laba to put the West Africans back in front moments later.
Siboniso Ngwenya had the final say though, as he struck deep into injury time to rescue a share of the spoils for Dominic Kunene’s side.
The hosts bossed possession and created the majority of the chances, although it took them some time to threaten the opposition goal.
After a quite start to proceedings, Laba had the first sight at goal when he cleared the crossbar with a header from Emmanuel Hackman’s cross in the 18th minute.
Togo hit the front just two minutes later, however, as Placca placed his free-kick into the top right corner of the net after Laba had been fouled by Mzwandile Mabelesa in a dangerous position.
Marouf Tchakei looked to double their lead just after the half-hour mark, but Mathabela Sandanezwe was on hand to keep out his header from Hackman’s delivery on the right.
Sandanezwe was called into action again on 35 minutes to save Thibault Klidje’s shot from inside the area and the visitors finally fashioned their first opportunity three minutes later when Kwakhe Thwala tested Malcolm Barcola with a strike from range.
Samuel Asamoah went close at the other end soon afterwards as he fired just wide of the near post from inside the box on the left, while the final action of the first half saw Mzwandile Mabelesa steer a header well over the target from Fanelo Mamba’s cross three minutes before half-time.
Laba was presented with two chances early in the second half, but he failed to trouble Sandanezwe on both occasions from inside the area, although his next effort did manage to draw a fine save out of the visiting keeper on 68 minutes.
Sandanezwe pulled off three saves in the space of five minutes to deny Placca, Youssifou Atte and Laba in the closing stages as the trio all tired their luck from distance, while Sabelo Ndzinisa directed a header narrowly beyond the right post from Philani Mkhontfo’s cross for Eswatini.
There was late drama when Ndzinisa equalised with a close-range header in the 84th minute after getting on the end of Mkhontfo’s cross, but parity lasted just three minutes as Laba nodded the ball past Sandanezwe from a corner to restore Togo’s lead.
However, there was one final twist in this Group B opener after Ngwenya snatched a last-gasp equaliser with a strike from range that beat Barcola to earn the King’s Shield a precious point.
Togo (1) 2 (Placca 20′, Laba 87′)
Eswatini (0) 2 (Ndzinisa 84′, Ngwenya 90+5′)
Togo: M. Barcola, E. Hackman, K. Boateng, D. Dakonam, Y. Atte, M. Tchakei (D. Karim 46′), A. Romao, S. Asamoah (D. Henen 66′), T. Klidje (S. Ouro 66′, K. Denkey 89′), K. Laba, E. Placca (F. Ayite 84′).
Eswatini: M. Sandanezwe, L. Mkhonta, M. Mabelesa, S. Mkhwanazi, K. Thwala, S. Matse, S. Ngwenya, N. Dlamini (P. Mkhontfo 63′), K. Mkhontfo (S. Gamedze 63′), F. Mamba, S. Ndzinisa.