Bafana turned on the energy and style to earn a first-ever victory over Senegal – 1-0 – in last night’s Nelson Mandela Challenge at Orlando Stadium.
Debutant Mpho Makola had a few chances to get his sights set on target with four earlier shots from range, then finally producing a gem to reward a small but vocal crowd in the 89th minute.
After a roundly criticised 3-1 defeat against robust Mauritania on a hot artificial surface in Nouakchott on Saturday, Bafana clearly enjoyed the lush, green surface in front of their home fans.
Senegal were missing Newcastle United star Papiss Cisse but brought a strong squad, including West Ham defender Diafra Sakho, Southampton’s striking prospect Sadio Mane and Genoa right-back Issa Cissokho.
Bafana created almost all the chances, though Senegal finished stronger after conceding. Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune almost redeemed himself for his howler in Mauritania by keeping his side in the game with spectacular saves.
The Lions of Teranga arrived from a solid 2-0 victory against Namibia on Saturday, but were strangely flat given such a forgiving travel schedule.
Bafana showed greater purpose and movement in attack, and were rewarded with victory.
Under-fire Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba’s squad had withdrawals from the hiatus in Mauritania. Centre-backs Rivaldo Coetzee and Mulomowandau Mathoho picked up injuries. Left-back Siyabonga Zulu was suspended due to his red card and Ayanda Patosi was excused.
In seven changes, Clayton Daniels, Siyabonga Nhlapo and Mzikayise Mashaba came into the defence. Makola, Bongani Zungu and Daylon Claasen were slotted into the midfield, while Sibusiso Vilakazi replaced Tokelo Rantie.
Bafana, rated 72nd in the world, had not beaten 38th-ranked Senegal in six previous encounters.
Bafana took control of the first half, though at times the lack of a final pass saw them shooting from range, as Makola came close with a free-kick.
Senegal’s only chance also came from a free-kick by Sakho, with Khune stopping.
Bafana did manage a killer pass before half time. Vilakazi found space down the left channel and deftly played Thamsanqa Gabuza in. The Orlando Pirates man blasted on to the crossbar. Gabuza then forced a save from keeper Khadim Ndiaye with a curler.
The South Africans had their long range shooting boots on, with Andile Jali testing a diving Ndiaye just after the break.
Vilakazi directed a close-range shot at Ndiaye’s 53rd-minute replacement, Lys Gomis, giving the new keeper a first touch.
Vilakazi spurned another excellent chance started by a clever throw by Khune to Jali, who fed the Bidvest Wits forward down the right to strike wide.
Makola finally found his range with a sweetly-hit 26m strike past Gomis.