Madagascar ensured top place in Group A at the COSAFA Cup in Polokwane on Thursday with a 1-0 victory over the Comoros Islands to finish one point ahead of Mozambique, who made heavy weather of beating the Seychelles 2-1 at the same time.
Madagascar will now meet hosts South Africa in the quarter-final on Sunday in what will effectively be an energy-sapping fourth match in seven days for them at the tournament
Joatombo Bourahim scrambled home the winner for Madagascar seconds before halftime as Comoros failed to clear the ball from a free-kick into their box.
The ball bobbled around the six-yard area before Bourahim poked it over the line for his second of the tournament.
A Comoros boot swung the ball clear, but the match officials rightly determined it had crossed the line.
It was a deserved victory as Comoros rarely threatened their goal, while Dax and Tsito Nasandratra squandered excellent opportunities for the Malagasy.
Mozambique got off to the perfect start when Seychelles goalkeeper Jerome Dingwall brought down Luis Missiquone in the penalty area and the Mambas were awarded a penalty, which Luis tucked away for his fourth goal of the competition.
Marauding fullback Edmilson should have made it 2-0 within eight minutes but miscued a shot from close range. Then, centre forward Dayo had two outrageous misses as Mozambique should have established a runaway lead by half-time at the New Peter Mokaba stadium.
Seychelles’ lone attack produced a goal for Elijah Tamboo, playing for the first time in this year’s competition, eight minutes into second half as Mozambique continued to spurn chances but they eventually went back ahead again from Jeitoso’s powerful header at the end of an Edmilson freekick after 72 minutes.
The first round will be concluded on Friday when Group B completes its schedule with Botswana in pole position to go through and meet holders Zimbabwe in the quarter-final on Sunday.
They must, however, beat Mauritius to make sure, otherwise the door is open for either Angola or the Mauritians to take top place from them. Both matches kick off simultaneously at 17h30 (15h30 GMT) and are being played in stadia a few hundred metres away from each other.
Angola play Malawi, who have looked the best side in the group but with just one point from their opening two games are already eliminated.
Madagascar 1 (Jaotombo Bourahim 45’) Comoros Islands 0
Mozambique 2 (Luis Missiquone 11’ pen, Jeitoso 72’) Seychelles 1 (Elijah Tamboo 52’)
Angola v Malawi (KO 17h30 local, 15h30 GMT) – New Peter Mokaba Stadium
Botswana v Mauritius (KO 17h30 local, 15h30 GMT) – Old Peter Mokaba Stadium
Group A P W D L GF GA Pts
Madagascar 3 2 1 0 4 2 7
Mozambique 3 2 0 1 6 3 6
Seychelles 3 0 2 1 3 4 2
Comoros Islands 3 0 1 2 1 5 1
Group B P W D L GF GA Pts
Botswana 2 1 1 0 3 2 4
Angola 2 1 0 1 2 2 3
Mauritius 2 1 0 1 1 1 3
Malawi 2 1 1 0 1 2 1
Matches Played: 10
Goals scored: 21
Biggest victory: Comoros Islands 0 Mozambique 3 (Group A, May 29)
Most goals in a game: 3 – Botswana 2 Angola 1 (Group B, May 28); Madagascar 2 Mozambique 1 0 (Group A, May 27); Comoros Islands 0 Mozambique 3 (Group A, May 29); Mozambique 2 Seychelles 1 (Group A, May 31)
4 goals –Luis Miquissone (Mozambique)
2 goals –Kabelo Seakanyeng (Botswana), Jeitoso (Mozambique), Joatombo Bourahim (Madagascar)
1 goal –Kaporal (Angola), Onkabetse Makgantai (Botswana), Mohamed M’changama (Comoros Islands), Andriamirado Andrianarimanana, Tokifandresena Andriamanjato (both Madagascar), Precious Sambani (Malawi) Damien Balisson (Mauritius), Leeroy Coralie, Eric Miellie, Elijah Tamboo (all Seychelles).
1 own goal –Emmanuel Vincent (Mauritius v Angola)