Bafana Bafana defeated Eswatini 1-0 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Tuesday but it was not enough to prevent their elimination from the COSAFA Cup.

Mozambique’s 3-1 victory over Botswana in a concurrent match at the Wolfson Stadium meant they topped the standings in Group A with five points (ranked ahead of SA on goal difference, as their head-to-head was a 1-1 draw last week). Since Group B concluded earlier in the day with both winners Comoros and second-place Kenya on six points, Bafana will not advance as the best runner-up from the three groups.

South Africa applied attacking pressure right from the kick-off and took the lead in the third minute, with Malebogo Modise’s in-swinging corner kick headed home by Thabang Sibanyoni for a 1-0 advantage.

The hosts’ Asenele Velebayi nearly added a second goal in the 13th minute, narrowly missing the target from a tight angle after a driving run down the left flank.

Eswatini began to settle into the game after the 20-minute mark and saw Sizolwethu Shabalala drag a shot just wide. Then Ayanda Gadlela finished off a smart attacking move by rounding the keeper and finding the net – but his effort was ruled out by a controversial offside call.

Bafana Bafana should have doubled their lead at 37 minutes when they cut through the Sihlangu defence to put Ashley Cupido one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but Xolani Gama made a crucial save to keep the deficit at one goal.

Eswatini made a change at the start of the second half, replacing Shabalala with Bongwa Matsebula, and they should have equalized just after the hour mark.

Siphephelo Philiso did great work down the left flank before whipping in a cross that took goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto out of the game, but Andy Magagula failed to find the net with a virtually open goal to aim for.

South Africa increased their attacking efforts in the final quarter-hour as news of Mozambique leading Botswana in a concurrent game filtered through, though Sihlangu nearly equalized via the left foot of Philiso, only for Mpoto to make a fine save.

The tournament hosts threw numbers forward, and Eswatini endured a few nervous moments – most notably when Gama dropped a cross in injury time but was bailed out by a defender – but ultimately Bafana was unable to add to their advantage.