Baxter starts his new job commendably as his charges relax and play for the win against nemesis.
Bafana Bafana’s first win over Nigeria in an official game in more than two decades was worth the wait.
Stuart Baxter sure has started his second stint as coach of Bafana Bafana with a bang! He could not have asked for a better start than beating South Africa’s nemesis – in their own backyard, nogal – in this CAF Africa Cup of Nations opening qualifier.
It took Bafana 24 years to break their duck against the Super Eagles. If there ever was a time for South Africa to stop Nigeria, this was it – and Bafana took advantage of the situation as they registered their first victory over the Super Eagles in an official game.
Nigeria’s chief tormentor, Tokelo Rantie, continued from where he left off in 2014 when he scored to put Bafana in the lead early in the second half.
Substitute Percy Tau scored the insurance goal 10 minutes from full time with his first touch.
After making sure that Nigeria would not get the opportunity to defend their title at the 2015 edition in Equatorial Guinea, a lot was expected from the home team, but they offered too little.
However, to be fair, they are in the midst of a rebuilding process, but that counts for nothing on the scoreboard.
Credit should go to Baxter for instilling confidence in the players and they didn’t seem the least bit intimidated by the match.
Baxter, the first Bafana coach to beat Nigeria in the Nelson Mandela Challenge in 2004, has given the team a new lease of life.
After a rather cautious first half, Bafana stepped up the challenge in the second stanza after realising that the Super Eagles were there for the taking.
Bafana deployed a wait-and-see approach as they sized up the hosts in the opening 45 minutes. But they could have gone to the break in the lead had Zwane’s shot not hit the upright in the 42nd minute.
This chance, their only one in the half, gave them confidence as they played with more purpose and determination when they returned from the break. And their confidence showed when Rantie put them ahead with a good header in the 54th minute after a well-taken cross by Ramahlwe Mphahlele on the right.
The goal was what they needed as it gave them breathing space and they managed to relax and play their normal game.
They could have gone 2-0 up earlier, but Zwane once again hit the woodwork in the 69th minute with goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi well beaten.
But the game was far from over as the hosts pushed forward for the equaliser. They sent in Ahmed Musa to replace Chuka Iwobi as they were chasing the game.
The Leicester City striker caused all sorts of problems for Bafana with his pace. Nigeria almost found the equaliser, but Dean Furman cleared on the line to rescue Bafana.
Then Tau silenced the home crowd with his first touch of the game after coming on for Rantie. The young lion was well spotted by Keagan Dolly from his own half and Tau had to run half the length of the field and beat the advancing Akpeyi to put Bafana in the driving seat.
By then, Bafana were on their way to winning – and they did that in style.
They should build on this performance in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in August.