Percy Tau of SA celebrates his goal with teammates Lebo Manyama and Themba Zwane during the Afcon qualifier between SA and Sao Tome and Príncipe at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on November 13 2020 in Durban. Picture: BACKPAGEPIX/STEVE HAAG
Percy Tau of SA celebrates his goal with teammates Lebo Manyama and Themba Zwane during the Afcon qualifier between SA and Sao Tome and Príncipe at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on November 13 2020 in Durban. Picture: BACKPAGEPIX/STEVE HAAG

That SA were able to beat Sao Tome 4-2 in their African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier was sufficient, but the manner in which the victory was achieved left a lot to be desired.

They trailed early on, pulled into a deserved lead, gave it up, but scored two late goals to have some sort of cushion in what was a weird “away” game, played in Port Elizabeth due to Covid-19 air travel restrictions.

The result masks a patchy performance from a team that needs plenty of work and time to find the right starting combination.

That the goals were shared by Themba Zwane and Percy Tau spoke of a shared synergy and understanding of when to take opportunities. They fluffed a few, but when the pressure was on to salvage the game, they came up with the goods to keep Bafana well in the qualification hunt in Group C.

That they became the first team in the group to concede goals against Sao Tome was embarrassing enough, but they have nine points from four games with Ghana still having to play Sudan away on Tuesday. Should Ghana win that game, they will leave Bafana with the simple task of needing one point from their last two games to qualify for Afcon 2022.

That should be straightforward by any stretch of the imagination, but this is Bafana Bafana. They can’t be trusted, not even with a safe house in a safe neighbourhood. At some point, Bafana need to overcome their slow starts, or better teams will make them pay.

There are also the defensive frailties at set-pieces that teams such as Ghana and Sudan will exploit with even more ruthlessness than Sao Tome did.

Bafana, with all the experience and some decent talent at Molefi Ntseki’s disposal, remain a perpetual work in progress. Whether they’ll get to some sort of cohesive functionality also remains to be seen.

The sad fact was that they didn’t start well, attacked reasonably in patches and defended poorly.  SA were dreadful in the first 10 minutes, with Sao Tome having two early opportunities.

They made a somnolent Bafana pay in the 12th minute when their captain, Joazhifel Sousa Pontes, nodded in Jardel Nazane’s corner. They had another opportunity in the 35th minute from Pontes via another Nazane corner, but SA had gradually taken control of the game by then.

By the time Bafana equalised in the 39th minute through Zwane, who was on the receiving end of a lovely Dean Furman pass, it was a case of when, not if, they were going to score.

The early goal shocked them into action, with Lebogang Manyama, who had two chances in the 10th and 27th minutes, being a constant danger despite his inaccuracy in front of goal. If the short but plucky Adaim Gamboa didn’t get in the way of a Thapelo Morena cross in the 44th minute, Manyama could have been in the hunt.

He should have scored in the 49th minute but his casual shot from a Zwane cross bounced off the bar. Bongani Zungu and Tau took turns in having shots saved on the hour and a header go wide a minute later, but Tau finally gave SA the lead in the 70th minute when he rifled a shot past Gamboa.

The lead lasted all of five minutes as Harramiz Soares equalised for Sao Tome after connecting with Aderito Mata’s cross. That equaliser left SA scrambling for a winning goal in what became a fraught last 10 minutes.

They drilled in two in two minutes through Zwane and Tau to spare their blushes and live to fight another day.

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