The South Africa national men’s team were looking to build on their recent success over Angola as they took on a dangerous Zambia side in the final of the four-nation tournament on Saturday.
Following a tough outing against Palancas Negras, Bafana coach Stuart Baxter looked to rejuvenate his side and assess other members of his squad as he named a completely changed starting XI. Baxter chose to bring in many of his experienced heads such as Kamohelo Mokotjo and Itumeleng Khune. But there was still space in the starting XI for debutant Innocent Maela and Daniel Cardoso in defence.
Bafana’s defence in particular, would need to be at its sharpest as Orlando Pirates forward Justin Shonga headed the Chipolopolo’s attack after scoring in their last match against Zimbabwe.
As expected the opening stanza at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium was an open affair with both sides having early chances. Zambia’s Shonga was proving to be a thorn in Bafana’s plans as he could have opened the scoring as early as the 10th minute, but Khune came to the rescue as he denied the forward in a one-on-one situation. Minutes later, Shonga would again test Khune who despite not playing against Angola, looked to be up to the task and ready for a fight as he denied the Zambian’s curling free kick.
Nonetheless, with 15 minutes played, Bafana would open the scoring through Tau. The Mamelodi Sundowns talisman continued his rich vein of scoring as he tapped home the ball courtesy of a mistake by the Zambian keeper who failed to hold onto what looked like a routine catch.
The goal gave Bafana the ascendency as they began to settle and Tau could have had his second just a few minutes later, but the 23-year-old on this occasion failed to find the target as he sent his effort wide of goal with only the keeper to beat.
Zambia, though, were not throwing in the towel yet and created several chances but still they could not find the equaliser even with a helping hand from the Bafana defender. With just over half an hour played, Hlatshwayo played what can only be described as a hospital pass to Cardoso, but luckily for the Bidvest Wits star, Brian Mwila could not capitalise.
Mwila’s evening would be brought to an abrupt halt as he was then withdrawn before half-time. But even the change could not change the complexion of the half as Khune once again came to rescue denying Lazarus Kambole before the break.
The resumption of the second half saw the home team come out of the tunnel guns blazing, and they were unlucky not to have found an equaliser almost immediately. Again, Bafana were almost their own worst enemies as Ramahlwe Mphahlele played a back-pass to Khune which was stolen by the prowling attacker. But Khune was up to the task as he averted the danger with a superb save to deny Fashion Sakala. Khune was singlehandedly keeping the neighbours at bay and he was again called into action in the 53rd minute. Khune showed just why he is the PSL’s stingiest keeper as he saved Ziyo Tembo’s header.
Although, Bafana were facing a barrage of pressure, their defence was holding firm and Siphesihle Ndlovu was enjoying an impressive run out in the middle of the park, and with time running out, the Zambian technical team decided to throw on Ronald Kampamba for the tiring Augustine Mulenga.
In response, Baxter added to his attack with the introduction of Ryan Moon and Mothiba late on. The French-based forward would almost immediately repay his coach’s faith in him as Mothiba made sure of victory at the death with a calm finish, earning Bafana a rare victory over their opponents.