Bafana Bafana’s World Cup dream just might become a reality‚ as they took the lead of Group B with a spectacularly dramatic 2-1 qualifying victory against Senegal at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday.
In three minutes just before the break‚ after absorbing pressure from a classy Senegal‚ Thulani Hlatshwayo’s 44th-minute penalty and Thulani Serero’s strike in injury time made Bafana’s Russia 2018 dream suddenly believable.
Substitute Cheik Ndoye pulled one back for Senegal in the 78th.
Bafana‚ ranked 62nd‚ were the underdogs‚ but Shakes Mashaba’s men rode the wave of what now appears a very credible turning of the tide in SA football to run out gutsy winners who can only grow in confidence from this result as these qualifiers continue.
It has been a long time since Shosholoza has been belted out so loudly for Bafana in the stands. A good Polokwane home crowd were superb in their support‚ and lapped up a nail-biting 90 minutes.
SA‚ who started with a 1-1 away draw against Burkina Faso‚ top Group D with four points with four matches to play.
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse has brought around a turnaround since their 1-1 draw against Bafana at the 2015 Africa
Cup of Nations where‚ like SA‚ the Lions of Teranga exited in the first round.
Senegal won six out of six reaching the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
Cisse brought an imposing line-up for a match that the Senegalese knew‚ if they won‚ would put them firmly in the Group D driving seat.
Senegal’s array of players from top European clubs is staggering. They had the West Ham and Newcastle giants Cheikhou Kouyate and Mohamed Diame partnering in defensive midfield‚ Napoli centreback Kalidou Koulibaly in defence‚ Everton’s Idrissa Gueye at playmaker.
Liverpool sensation Sadio Mane‚ who has six EPL goals at his new club‚ was on the right of attack‚ Lazio’s Keita Balde on the left. The lone Senegalese-based starter was Moussa Konate at centre-forward.
Stoke City striker Mame Biram Diouf was on the bench.
Pitted against all this Bafana would rely on home advantage and a strength that Cisse alluded to in the week – that sometimes it is easier to build a team when you have more local-based players. And the confidence in SA football right now following Mamelodi Sundowns’ Caf Champions League victory last month.
In the first 26 minutes Mane had a header flash over and Konate drove straight at Itumeleng Khune from range.
South Africa had possession but against a team that exuded class in their touches and build-ups were cautious to commit themselves to the attack.
They grew in confidence and in the 39th Serero’s crossfield pass put Keagan Dolly through to shoot at goalkeeper Abdoulaye Diallo.
On a Bafana attack Gueye handled and Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey pointed to the spot.
Right-back Hlatshwayo’s penalty was well struck low and to the left – it had to be because Diallo got a touch‚ but could not stop the goal.
The 1-0 scoreline seemed too good to be true. It became 2-0 in added time.
Mpho Makola played in a low cross that Keagan Dolly passed on to Serero. The Ajax Amsterdam man did not expect the ball and attempted a throughpass that fooled everyone‚ and rolled in past stranded Diallo.
The 2-0 deficit made Senegal dangerous coming out of the change rooms‚ because now they had licence to throw all their class forward.
Bafana needed to invoke the spirit of Sundowns’ grind in the Alexandria second leg of the Caf final against
Zamalek‚ and fight for everything.
Konate should have done better gifted a free header in the 58th.
But SA were still dangerous in attack‚ Dolly stretching and missing after being teed up by Serero.
Diouf‚ on for Konate‚ should have buried a free header in the 73rd.
Senegal finally did get one back‚ as first Diouf’s shot was blocked by Makola‚ then another by Khune‚ another substitute Ndoye finally burying the goal‚ setting up an unbearably tense final 10 minutes.
– TMG Digital/TMG Sport