BAFANA Bafana defeated Gabon 3-0 in an international friendly match on Friday at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
South Africa had gone eight matches without a win and the team had vowed to turn things around with the Gabon match, and that is exactly what they did.
Caretaker coach Steve Komphela made seven changes to the starting line-up that did duty against Botswana a week ago.
Teko Modise, Eric Mathoho, Tokelo Rantie, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, May Mahlangu, Lebohang Mokoena and Siboniso Gaxa were all brought in – with Siphiwe Tshabalala, Itumeleng Khune, Punch Masenamela and Morgan Gould retaining their places in the first eleven. Mahlangu scooped the man of the match award.
“It was a test of character, I felt as one of the senior players I had let the team down in the last two matches which were very disappointing. I am just happy we won the match, and from now on every game counts. ” said Tshabalala who was the captain on the night.
South Africa dominated possession and created numerous scoring chances.
None of the newcomers disappointed as South Africa took the lead in the 42nd minute from a well-taken Tshabalala free kick.
“Everyone worked hard and it was a job well-done. I would like to thank our supporters for rallying behind the team especially during difficult times – we could not have done it without you. You will agree with me that we have been playing good football, but have not been winning, and not losing either. The difference tonight was that we managed to score and score big,” added Tshabalala.
“We know the expectations are high from the nation, a draw should not be an option but we must work even harder because we have set the standard by scoring three goals, which was not easy. It was time to restore the pride of the team as the hopes of the nation rest on us, and we worked very hard to achieve that.”
Shortly after the break Rantie scored his first goal for his country to give Bafana Bafana a two-nil lead.
Second-half substitute Mzikayise Mashaba put the issue beyond doubt when he also netted his first for South Africa in the 76th minute.
The match also marked Gaxa’s 50th for Bafana Bafana.
“It has been very difficult as we could not win the last two games but today we came out fighting and very strong to win the match. The boys played very well and credit should go to everyone for the effort. Most importantly we have to thank God because we went through these difficulties but still managed to win. We must not think we have reached the top yet with this win, we know a lot of hard work lies ahead, we just needed to have belief,” said Gaxa.
“On a personal level my gratitude goes to everyone who helped me to reach this milestone, it’s a great achievement and I very proud of myself.”
It was Bafana Bafana’s attacking play that had the crowd on their feet, putting the Gabon defence under pressure for the better part of the match.
“It was more the attitude of the mind, we had to remain very positive and understand the circumstances, and I am happy that the players stood up to be counted and gave a good result. The outcome has been the culmination of hard work put in over some time, and Pitso also contributed. We played football that was easy on the eye. We created a lot of chances, and the good thing is that we scored some of those chances,” said caretaker coach Steve Komphela.
“At least the pressure is getting lesser. This win has given the players confidence that they can win matches and inspire the nation. It was a great effort and I am happy that tonight we can go home and sleep properly as a nation.”
This is how they lined up:
Starting XI: Itumeleng Khune (GK), Siboniso Gaxa, Punch Masenamela, Eric Mathoho, Morgan Gould, Teko Modise, Siphiwe Tshabalala (c), Reneilwe Letsholonyane, May Mahlangu, Lebohang Mokoena, Tokelo Rantie
Thulani Serero, Andile Jali, Siyanda Xulu, Siyabonga Nomvethe, Lehlohonolo Majoro, Mzikayise Mashaba
Did not play:
Wayne Sandilands (GK), Darren Keet (GK), Anele Ngcongca
Starting XI: Didier Ovono, Romaric Rogombe, Edmond Mouele, Kombo Pongui, Franck Engonga Obambe, Landing Pape Sambou, Donan Allen Nono, Tandjigoro Koumba Abdoulaye, Johan O Branger Engone, Stevy Nzambe, Guelor Kanga Kaku