Bafana put on a thriller

It took great de­fence and luck to keep the score at 2-1 against the Teranga Lions

CityPress - - Sport - TI­MOTHY MOLOBI at Peter Mok­aba Sta­dium ti­mothy@city­press.co.za

Never had Bafana Bafana wished for the fi­nal whis­tle so fer­vently as they did here yes­ter­day. When Ghana­ian ref­eree Joseph Lamptey brought this game to an end, the cel­e­bra­tions that fol­lowed said it all.

This was South Africa’s maiden vic­tory over the Teranga Lions in an of­fi­cial game.

Un­for­tu­nately, the fi­nal whis­tle also brought some un­nec­es­sary, ugly scenes of con­fronta­tion as Sene­galese play­ers ac­costed Lamptey, ac­cus­ing him of favouritism. The match of­fi­cials had to be es­corted off the field.

Iron­i­cally, it took two thu­la­nis (isiZulu for “keep quiet”) to si­lence the Sene­galese.

It has to be said, though, that it was a nervy fi­nal 10 min­utes or so, af­ter Sene­gal pulled one goal back through sub­sti­tute Cheikh N’Doye to make South Africa fear the worst. Bafana had to de­fend with ev­ery­thing they had as the West Africans kept search­ing for that equaliser.

It took some great de­fend­ing, and some luck, for the score to re­main 2-1 at the end, as Sene­gal nearly achieved a draw.

There might still be a long way to go in these 2018 World Cup qual­i­fiers, but Bafana Bafana’s vic­tory will cover some of the dis­tance.

The win will at least give coach Shakes Mashaba some peace­ful nights, and buy him more than enough time in the hot seat, as the next qual­i­fiers are only in Septem­ber next year.

In fact, it will be a merry Christ­mas for Bafana af­ter they knocked Sene­gal off the top of the group.

But, truth be told, it was not easy. Some­times it is not how you play, but the re­sults that count. This was in­deed the case, as was seen in the de­ter­mi­na­tion and char­ac­ter Bafana dis­played to bag this hard-fought win. They have learnt their lessons: if you win at home, half the job is done. But there were mis­takes. Al­though Bafana knew what to ex­pect in the sec­ond half af­ter tak­ing a 2-0 lead into the break, they still played into the hands of the vis­i­tors. All Bafana needed to do was con­tinue to take the game to Sene­gal, but in­stead they opted to de­fend their 2-0 lead, which was detri­men­tal.

Sens­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of de­feat, Sene­gal in­tro­duced Mame Diouf in the sec­ond half and changed tac­tics by opt­ing for high balls into the box. This ploy caused some panic, with Bafana strug­gling to deal with those high balls. And al­though they bom­barded Itume­leng Khune’s goal area, Sene­gal could not find the equaliser.

Bafana play­ers showed that big­name play­ers meant noth­ing to them, and from the on­set they re­fused to be cowed by the starstud­ded Sene­galese team.

The vis­i­tors not only tried to cap­i­talise on their height ad­van­tage and ex­pe­ri­ence, but re­lied on their strength – neat in­ter-passes and ball pos­ses­sion. And this worked for the home side, as they kept on knock­ing on Ab­doulaye Diallo’s goal posts. But the first shot only came in the 37th minute.

That seemed to have opened the flood­gates, as a few min­utes later Bafana soared ahead from a Thu­lani Hlatshwayo penalty, hotly con­tested by the vis­i­tors. Then, two min­utes later, Thu­lani Serero also reg­is­tered his name on the score­sheet, af­ter quick think­ing by his team-mates, who took a free kick while the Sene­galese were em­broiled in an ar­gu­ment with the ref­eree.

How­ever, de­spite the win, Bafana should brace them­selves for an on­slaught when they go to Sene­gal next year for their fi­nal qual­i­fier be­cause it is go­ing to be war in Dakar.

In an­other Group D match, Cape Verde were beaten 2-0 at home by Burk­ina Faso.

. Mean­while, City Press can re­veal that rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Egyp­tian giants Za­malek were in the coun­try this week to hold talks with Mamelodi Sun­downs coach Pitso Mosi­mane, to try to lure him to the land of the Pharoahs.

The meet­ing did not ma­te­ri­alise as Mosi­mane was ap­par­ently out of town, but he did con­firm that there had been an ad­vance made by the North Africans that “hum­bled and flat­tered” him.

PHOTO: DENVOR DE WEE / VIS­UAL BUZZ SA

HEADS UP Bafana Bafana skip­per for the day Thu­lani Hlatshwayo goes for a high ball against Sene­gal’s Moussa Konate in yes­ter­day’s 2018 World Cup Qual­i­fier

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