An 18th minute penalty by Sierra Leone’s captain and star player Mohammed Kallon separated the teams, but it was rough justice on Joel Santana’s men who were unlucky not have gained a point from their trip to Freetown.
They had completely dominated the opening period when the hosts mounted their first meaningful attack, and Bryce Moon’s lunge brought down Samuel Barlay in the penalty area, just inside the left channel. It was a careless challenge, and it has cost South Africa dearly.
Although the qualifying campaign for Angola 2010 has a long way to go, there must be serious concern around Bafana’s inability to pick up points in West Africa. And, unless this is rectified, South Africa face the embarrassing prospect of missing out on the Nations Cup finals just a few months before hosting the World Cup.
Yet, with a little luck, and more assured finishing, South Africa would have taken a point, or even all three, from this match.
Just as they completely dominated the opening quarter-hour, forcing the hosts into conceding a flurry of free-kicks, so they dominated the closing stages, again winning a number of free-kicks, but to no avail.
Caulker saved acrobatically on his line from from Lerato Chabangu in the 81st minute, just seconds after the Sundowns man had come on for a disappointing Terror Fanteni. And Caulker repeated the heroics during a goallmouth scramble three minutes into time added on, clinching a precious win for the underdogs.
South Africa came close on a number of other occasions, Kagiso Dikgacoi hitting the crossbar after a good move in the 67th minute involving Steven Pienaar and Tshepo Masilela.
Surprise Moriri twice drew point-blank saves out of Caulker, the first just before half-time, then again as Bafana mounted their second half comeback. And Pienaar twice had efforts that were too close to the keeper to trouble him.
The hosts were not completely outclassed however, and dominated the period after taking the lead – another cause for concern for Santana, as Bafana again let their heads drop.
They roused themselves well after the interval however, and even though Sierra Leone played with the confidence of a home side leading, Bafana return home convinced that the better side lost.
Sierra Leone: Christian Caulker – Warren Kanu, Ibrahim Koroma, Umeru Bangura, Gibrila Wobay – Samuel Barlay (Alpha Lansana 84), Ibrahim Kargbo, Sherrif Suma, Kai Kamara (Ishmael Kamara 90 + 3) – Mohammed Kallon (capt), Mustapha Bangura (Paul Kpaka 74)
South Africa: Khune – Moon (Mashego 68), Khumalo, Tsotetsi, Masilela – Modise, Sibaya (capt), Dikgacoi, Pienaar – Moriri – Fanteni (Chabangu 81)