SOUTH Africa got their first win at the African Nations Cup since 2004 and rekindled the host nation's hopes with a convincing 2-0 victory over Angola in Durban on Wednesday to go top of Group A.
After drawing 0-0 with minnows Cape Verde in a lacklustre start to their campaign on Saturday, South Africa produced a much more convincing display to relieve some of the intense pressure that had built up around the home country.
Defender Siyabonga Sangweni scored his third international goal when he snuck around the back of the Angola defence and volleyed home a Bernard Parker cross to give the hosts a 30th-minute lead.
Substitute Lehlohonolo Majoro then doubled the advantage just after the hour when he latched on to a long ball from Reneilwe Letsholonyane and dribbled his way through the Angola defence before finishing neatly through the legs of goalkeeper Lama.
South Africa's Siyabonga Sangweni (2nd L) celebrates his goal against Angola with teammates.
It was South Africa's first win in their last nine matches at the finals, a run that dates back to 2004 when they beat Benin 2-0.
They are now top the group with four points while Angola have one, having failed to score in their two encounters so far.
Morocco and Cape Verde play in Wednesday's second match in Durban.
South Africa's victory is likely to revitalise the tournament for the home nation after a limp start.
The disaffection that followed their opening-day draw against the tiny Cape Verde Islands was reflected in a disappointing crowd at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, which rapidly filled up after the start of the second half.
Gordon Igesund celebrates Majoro's goal which handed South Africa the win
"We hope we get the momentum going, but we don't want to get too excited and too carried way," a visibly relieved South Africa coach Gordon Igesund told reporters.
South Africa made five changes for Wednesday's game and produced a convincing performance, dominating the midfield and creating a host of chances.
The hosts' goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was called on to save several headed efforts from Angola captain Manucho and a strong shot from Guilherme Afonso.
Angola coach Gustavo Ferrin conceded they had been outplayed, but complained about referee Komlan Coulibaly from Mali, who he felt favoured the home side.
Morocco leave it late
Cape Verde Islands came within minutes of their greatest sporting success before being held to a 1-1 draw by Morocco in Group A of the African Nations Cup on Wednesday.
The tiny island nation, making their tournament debut, scored their first goal in finals after 36 minutes at the Moses Mabhida Stadium when Luis Soares, who plays under the name Platini, acrobatically chipped the ball over Moroccan goalkeeper Nadir Lamyaghri following a through ball from Ryan Mendes.
Morocco though, battled hard for an equaliser and duly got their reward after 78 minutes when Abdelaziz Barrada set up Youssef El Arabi who fired home for their deserved goal.Substitute Youssef El Arabi spared Morocco's blushes with a late equaliser to deny the Cape Verde Islands one of the biggest upsets of the African Nations Cup when the two sides drew 1-1 on Wednesday.
Morocco's Youssef El Arabi celebrates his equalising goal
The Cape Verdians took a shock but deserved lead in the 36th minute through Platini only for Morocco to score in the last 12 minutes.
However, with two points from their opening two Group A games, Cape Verde - with a population of just over 500,000 the smallest country to ever compete at the tournament - still have a chance of progressing to the knockout stage.
They face Angola in their final group match in Port Elizabeth on Sunday while Morocco meet hosts South Africa in Durban.
"It's a night to congratulate Cape Verde football, a big night for our country," said coach Lucio Antunes.
"We showed we have great players just like Ghana, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast. My boys can play at Chelsea, Manchester United, Milan, Real Madrid," he added as emotions threatened to run away with him.
Cape Verde's Babanco congratulates goalscorer Platini
Cape Verde hussled and fought throughout the game. Their midfield pressure forced Karim El Ahmadi to lose the ball, allowing Ryan Mendes to run away and set up Platini for the opening goal, which he chipped over on-rushing Morocco keeper Nadir Lamyaghri.
It was one of several missed chances for the Cape Verde, who also had a thunderous free kick from Mendes saved by Lamyaghri.
Morocco did not come alive until late in the game but did enough for a draw when the unmarked El Arabi drove the ball home after a pull back from Abdelaziz Barrada in the 78th minute.
It sparked Morocco, a country with a long tradition of success in the African game, out of a collective slumber and set up a grandstand finish with Al Arabi missing a chance to grab the winner in the 83rd minute when his header went wide.
South Africa lead the group after beating Angola 2-0 on Wednesday. They have four points. Cape Verde and Morocco are on two and Angola one.