Evidence Makgopa, No 5, celebrates the first of his two goals for Bafana in their 3-2 over Uganda at Orlando Stadium, Soweto, June 10 2021. Picture: SAMUEL SHIVAMBU/BACKPAGEPIX
Evidence Makgopa, No 5, celebrates the first of his two goals for Bafana in their 3-2 over Uganda at Orlando Stadium, Soweto, June 10 2021. Picture: SAMUEL SHIVAMBU/BACKPAGEPIX

The new Bafana Bafana era got off to flying start after the largely inexperienced national team came from behind to overcome Uganda 3-2 in their international friendly in Soweto on Thursday night.

Bafana struggled to impose themselves in the opening exchanges and were given a rude awakening when Ibrahim Orit headed Uganda in front on 17 minutes at Orlando Stadium after the Bafana backline failed to defend a cross.

Orit should have doubled the lead a minute later after robbing Nkosinathi Sibisi of the ball inside the Bafana half but his effort went inches wide of goalkeeper and captain Ronwen Williams’ goals.

Bafana failed to have a single shot at goal in an uninspiring first half in their first match since their failure to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals.

But things changed in the second half after the introduction of forwards Thabiso Kutumela and Evidence Makgopa, who came in for  defenders Nkosinathi Sibisi and Denwin Farmer.

The 22-year-old Makgopa managed the first shot at goal for Bafana and pulled the team level shortly after the halftime break with his second attempt, a headed goal at the near post.

Fellow substitute Kutumela also got in on the act with a flashed effort at goal but it was another youngster in 21-year-old Bongokuhle Hlongwane who turned things around for the home team.

Hlongwane put Bafana ahead with a stunning curling effort with his left foot from the edge of the box that found the inside of the post and the back of the net.

Bafana started the match with seven debutants and a starting line-up consisting of only locally based players. The team was so thin in experience that the entire starting eleven had a combined number of just 40 caps, with Williams (18), defender Innocent Maela (10), and forward Lebohang Maboe (11) accounting for 39 of those caps and young Hlongwane (1).

Bafana bizarrely had six defensive-minded players starting  against a young Uganda side that is rebuilding following retirements of several key senior players, which led to a drab first half with no shots at goal.

But the withdrawal of two defenders and the introduction of attacking players turned the match on its head with Makgopa helping himself to a brace on debut.

Despite being favourites, the odds were stacked against Bafana in the build up to this match and the win will have the young and inexperienced team, including the new coaching staff, believe in their processes.

Bafana were dealt a huge blow at the start of the week after England-based forward Percy Tau and midfielders Teboho Mokoena and Sipho Mbule were ruled out due to Covid-19.

If that was not enough, the Mamelodi Sundowns trio of centreback Mosa Lebusa and utility players Rivaldo Coetzee and Mothobi Mvala were later also withdrawn due to injury.

It got worse on the eve of the match after the Bafana first assistant Cedomir Janevski also tested positive for Covid-19.

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