Bafana Bafana claimed a 2-0 victory against a spirited Sao Tome and Principe at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday as the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers resumed after a lengthy layoff due to the coronavirus.
AS IT HAPPENED | Bafana Bafana 2-0 Sao Tome
The 182nd ranked team in world football, according to the latest FIFA ranking system, surprised the home side as their hard-hitting tactics kept the South African attack at bay for large parts on the night.
As early as the ninth minute, Sao Tome nearly found the opening goal when four Bafana players, including midfield pairing Dean Furman and Kamohelo Mokotjo, were easily split by the islanders' attack, but the away side's effort resulted in them hitting the side netting of Ronwen Williams' goal.
South Africa eased themselves into the match and 15 minutes into the clash, 2019/20 PSL Player of the Season Themba Zwane had a serious goal threat blocked by the visitors' defence inside the penalty area.
Sao Tome slowly began to crack and, on the cusp of the 20th minute, Percy Tau latched onto a goalkeeper error close to the edge of the box but could only deliver a soft layoff to his oncoming team-mates that did not materialise into a goal.
Sao Tome continued to press Bafana Bafana and the mandatory water break could not have come at a better time as it eased the pressure on South Africa.
It did just what Bafana needed, taking out the sting of the visitors' attack with the home side seeing more of the ball.
The second half could not have started worse for the visitors as goalkeeper Gamboa went off injured and was replaced by Nilson Taty.
Seconds after the substitution, Tau found himself standing over the ball as Bafana Bafana received a penalty.
The former Mamelodi Sundowns made no mistake, giving his side the lead and punching the air with elation after the ball hit the back of the net.
More chances then arose for Bafana as Thapelo Morena teased South Africa's attack with a cross as Zwane's connected headed effort narrowly missed the goal.
Taty then also parried the ball from a Bafana Bafana cross which then landed for Keagan Dolly. The 27-year-old's deflected strike at goal found Lebogang Manyama, who missed the target from close range.
Ntseki then rang the changes with Bongani Zungu getting a taste of the action, replacing Mokotjo.
The midfielder's introduction ended Sao Tome's hopes of getting an equaliser as he doubled South Africa's lead rattling the back of the net with a header courtesy of a Dolly cross.
Sao Tome's defence and midfield in particular certainly held their own in this match, not allowing South Africa’s attack to find rhythm.
Ntseki's charges secured the vital three points and they depart for Port Elizabeth on Saturday morning to prepare for the second match.
Monday's match will take place at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, scheduled for a 15:00 kick-off.