Bafana Bafana hang in there
Ten-man national team gets unexpected victory over a game Burkina Faso
First-half goals from Mamelodi Sundowns players Percy Tau, Themba Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi gave a 10-man Bafana Bafana an unexpected victory which improved their remote hopes of qualifying for the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.
The goals downed Burkina Faso, who came here carrying the favourites tag as they were on top of the Group D standings, tied on six points with Cape Verde, who shamed Bafana by beating them twice at the beginning of September.
Bafana's hopes were, however, dented a few hours later when Diafra Sakho and Cheikh Ndoye's goals rewarded Senegal with a priceless 2-0 victory over Cape Verde in Praia. That result puts Senegal in the driving seat in the group with eight points and it means Bafana will have to beat the Lions of Teranga to have any chance of making it to Russia.
Though Burkina Faso players and their bench strongly protested against Tau's first strike, television replays showed that the headed goal did cross the line after coming off the left upright.
There were no complaints whatsoever from the West Africans for Zwane's goal in the 33rd and Vilakazi's clincher in stoppage time of the first half.
Zwane and Vilakazi's goals came after a delightful interchange of passes by Bafana players after Khune supplied two key passes.
Tau was set free by Andile Jali, who delivered a perfect defence splitter before Tau himself created an assist with a cheeky back-heel that turned into a delicious pass for Vilakazi to beat Koffi Herve in the Burkinabe goals.
Though Burkina Faso came out spitting fire in a second half that started with rain, great saves by their captain, Itumeleng Khune in goal, saw Bafana holding on to their memorable win even though Alain Traore did give them a consolation with a well-taken free kick outside the area three minutes from time.Khune praised his teammates for taking their chances and redeeming themselves after the flak they took after their two losses to Cape Verde.
"We needed to earn back the confidence of our people because we always need their support," said Khune, who revealed that part of their strategy going into the match was to forget about what had happened against Cape Verde.
Part of doing that, said Khune, was to avoid touching their cellphones in order to avoid reading nasty messages in the social media from angry supporters.
"We needed to get out of a bad situation by winning and we played good and entertaining football today because our minds were right. Even going forward, we know what to do when we have our backs against the wall," added Khune.
Bafana coach Stuart Baxter, whose side is still sitting at the bottom of the group with four points, said he had to remind his charges at half time that the game wasn't over.
"Sometimes when you score early in the game it can be a disadvantage. The challenge was to make sure that the players continue to press forward in the second half and I thought we did have a couple of opportunities to score more goals," said Baxter..
Bafana's victory came even after they were a man down, with Bongani Zungu shown a red card by Cameroonian referee Alioum Alioum for elbowing Burkina Faso skipper Charles Kabore after a scuffle in the middle of the park in the 67th minute.
Bafana's victory comes after embarrassing back-to-back 2-1 losses against Cape Verde. The defeats left Bafana's quest for Russia hanging by the thinnest of threads. Bafana's woes were further escalated by Fifa's decision last month to order a replay of their match against Senegal even though the circumstances surrounding the 2-1 win for Bafana were completely out of their hands.
Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey was banned by Fifa for match-fixing and the Senegal match will now be replayed on November 10 in Polokwane.