Polokwane - Never had Bafana Bafana wished for the final whistle so fervently as they did here on Saturday.
When Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey brought this game to an end, the celebrations that followed said it all.
This was South Africa’s maiden victory over the Teranga Lions in an official game.
Unfortunately, the final whistle also brought some unnecessary, ugly scenes of confrontation as Senegalese players accosted Lamptey, accusing him of favouritism.
The match officials had to be escorted off the field.
Ironically, it took two thulanis (isiZulu for “keep quiet”) to silence the Senegalese.
It has to be said, though, that it was a nervy final 10 minutes or so, after Senegal pulled one goal back through substitute Cheikh N’Doye to make South Africa fear the worst.
Bafana had to defend with everything they had as the West Africans kept searching for that equaliser.
It took some great defending, and some luck, for the score to remain 2-1 at the end, as Senegal nearly achieved a draw.
There might still be a long way to go in these 2018 World Cup qualifiers, but Bafana Bafana’s victory will cover some of the distance.
The win will at least give coach Shakes Mashaba some peaceful nights, and buy him more than enough time in the hot seat, as the next qualifiers are only in September next year.
In fact, it will be a merry Christmas for Bafana after they knocked Senegal off the top of the group.
But, truth be told, it was not easy. Sometimes it is not how you play, but the results that count.
This was indeed the case, as was seen in the determination and character Bafana displayed to bag this hard-fought win. They have learnt their lessons: if you win at home, half the job is done.
But there were mistakes.
Although Bafana knew what to expect in the second half after taking a 2-0 lead into the break, they still played into the hands of the visitors.
All Bafana needed to do was continue to take the game to Senegal, but instead they opted to defend their 2-0 lead, which was detrimental.
Sensing the possibility of defeat, Senegal introduced Mame Diouf in the second half and changed tactics by opting for high balls into the box.
This ploy caused some panic, with Bafana struggling to deal with those high balls. And although they bombarded Itumeleng Khune’s goal area, Senegal could not find the equaliser.
Bafana players showed that big-name players meant nothing to them, and from the onset they refused to be cowed by the star-studded Senegalese team.
The visitors not only tried to capitalise on their height advantage and experience, but relied on their strength – neat inter-passes and ball possession.
And this worked for the home side, as they kept on knocking on Abdoulaye Diallo’s goal posts. But the first shot only came in the 37th minute.
That seemed to have opened the floodgates, as a few minutes later Bafana soared ahead from a Thulani Hlatshwayo penalty, hotly contested by the visitors.
Then, two minutes later, Thulani Serero also registered his name on the scoresheet, after quick thinking by his team-mates, who took a free kick while the Senegalese were embroiled in an argument with the referee.
However, despite the win, Bafana should brace themselves for an onslaught when they go to Senegal next year for their final qualifier because it is going to be war in Dakar.
Meanwhile, City Press can reveal that representatives of Egyptian giants Zamalek were in the country the past few days to hold talks with Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane, to try and lure him to the land of the Pharoahs.
The meeting did not materialise as Mosimane was apparently out of town, but he did confirm that there had been an advance made by the North Africans that “humbled and flattered” him.