Baxter fills in blanks with playmaker Jali
High-pressure game proves winner for SA against Burkina Faso
Playing Andile Jali as a deep striker behind centre forward Percy Tau in Bafana's 3-1 World Cup qualifying win over Burkina Faso raised eyebrows, but it proved a masterstroke for coach Stuart Baxter.
Jali, who normally plays as a central midfielder, looked a little bit awkward at first, but settled well with his physical presence and passing, which played a crucial role in keeping Burkina Faso on the back foot.
Baxter's plan of an attacking central midfield behind Jali and Tau in the form of Bongani Zungu and Kamohelo Mokotjo worked as well as he could have asked in a first half.
In the period Bafana overwhelmed the Stallions with quick goals by Tau and wingers Themba Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi.
Jali laid on a superb defence-splitting pass for Zwane's strike.
"I looked at this game when I did my analysis and I felt very strongly that Andile Jali was the right one to have as the No10.
"I could have gone with Sibusiso Vilakazi, Keagan Dolly or Lebogang Manyama.
"But when I'd seen Burkina Faso play they kept tight lines and it was difficult getting the ball between them. And if you got the ball between the lines you needed to pass quickly.
"And I think that's Andile. He started off a little bit worried about his defending - which is a good sign," said Baxter.
"That was more to do with us not putting him in [to danger areas]. But once we started knowing where he was going to be and getting him on the ball in that transition phase, then the movement of Tau came into play and the movement of Zwane and even Vilakazi, driving in with the ball and allowing the fullbacks out wide.
"I think the players made it happen. And in our attacking play I thought we got what we wanted," Baxter said.
The victory kept Bafana in with a chance of reaching Russia 2018 but they have to beat Senegal at home on November 10 and away on November 14 to qualify.