It took more than an hour, but Bafana Bafana finally scored their first goal of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations to beat Namibia 1-0 in Cairo on Friday.
Former Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Bongani Zungu was the hero on the night, nodding a header from a perfect Percy Tau corner past Namibian goalkeeper Loydt Kazapua in the 68th minute.
It brought much-needed relief to coach Stuart Baxter and Bafana supporters, as the South Africans again battled to get their attacking shape going, as they did in the 1-0 loss to Ivory Coast on Monday.
In fact, it was their southern African neighbours Namibia who looked sprightlier in the opening 45 minutes.
They had a clear plan in place to exploit the space on the right-hand side of the Bafana defence, with Thamsanqa Mkhize pushing high up the line to assist on attack.
Peter Shalulile, who plays for Highlands Park in the PSL, in particular was effective in getting in behind, although his delivery from the left wasn’t always the best.
Another SA-based player, Deon Hotto of Wits, was also a threat when he had possession, but he wasted a few chances on goal.
Bafana’s first proper attempt came in the 15th minute when Sibusiso Vilakazi fired a shot, but it went over the crossbar.
Lebo Mothiba and Themba Zwane had further opportunities after the half-hour mark, but they weren’t able to trouble goalkeeper Kazapua.
Tau had arguably his finest chance of the night when he was free inside the box, but he didn’t get any power on his side-footed effort that rolled tamely to the goalkeeper.
Things went from bad to worse for Tau when he was unmarked inside the box in the second half, but he fell over his own feet and the chance was gone.
Soon after that, Darren Keet spilled a cross, but Hotto’s shot was cleared off the line by defender Buhle Mkhwanazi.
However, ex-Sundowns star Tau more than made up for his lapses when he whipped in a superb corner from the left and found his former club teammate Zungu, who had no one around him and buried the ball into the back of the next.
That seemed to ignite the Bafana attack, as they stormed forward, with Tau becoming much more prominent as the game wore on.
The South Africans were unable to add further goals, and Baxter would’ve had his heart in his mouth when Keet came out late in the match, but captain Thulani Hlatshwayo saved the day.
Bafana were able to close out the victory, and will now approach Monday’s final group game against Morocco with much more confidence.
But they will have to play with the same kind of vigour as they did in the last quarter if they are to upset the Atlas Lions.