Stuart Baxter. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/SYDNEY SESHIBEDI
Stuart Baxter. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/SYDNEY SESHIBEDI

Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter says they were not surprised that Libya pushed for a win and did not play for a draw in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Saturday.

The result at a rain-soaked Moses Mabhida Stadium was a blow to Bafana in their Group E campaign. The South Africans now have four points from two matches after a 2-0 opening away win against Nigeria in Uyo in 2017.

Libya coach Adel Amrouche had promised his team had not come to play for a draw.

SA, who played a midweek training match against AmaZulu in which Baxter asked the Durban club to sit deep, struggled to contain a quick Libyan counterattack in a first half in which the North Africans created chances and hit the post. Baxter was asked if the Libyan approach surprised Bafana.

"No," he replied. "I said before the game that I had seen them play two different ways. And I saw them play two different ways in one game.

"So I knew they had a more aggressive pressing game and I knew that they could drop off and try to tempt us to press a bit higher and then get behind us.

"So we had to practice two different games as well. And the players did a good job in terms of that, because Libya didn’t get a goal, and we were the ones who were supposed to push on and win the game.

"And we could have very easily have been caught with our trousers down had we overextended ourselves [pressing for a winner]," said Baxter.

"They still created a few situations, as we will create situations when we go to their place.

"But it’s about us taking advantage of what we have got. And I didn’t think we did that.

"I didn’t think we took advantage of the scraps that fell from the table when they overplayed or when we defended quite strongly and won the ball.

"I would have liked us to play with a bit more quality. And then maybe we would have got the goal, and then maybe they would have had to come out, and then the game changes.

"But I wasn’t surprised by them. Maybe you guys [the media] were surprised that they’re a tidy football team."

Baxter had warned from his first team announcement media conference in Johannesburg that Libya would be a tough outfit to break down.

Bafana will draw some backlash for a game that, had they won, would have put them firmly in the driving seat for Cameroon 2019.

It is hard to see what more they might have done, though, apart from a more cohesive attacking performance.

Baxter put out an attacking, quick lineup of Keagan Dolly and Vincent Pule on his wings outside of Percy Tau at striker. The coach might have had Sibusiso Vilakazi as a second striker from the start, as he was pushed up in the second half, rather than as part of a midfield three.

SA and Libya each have four points in Group E.

Nigeria, who beat Seychelles 3-0 away, have three.

Bafana will expect back-to-back victories in their next two matches against Seychelles on October 10 (away) and October 13 (home).

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