Baxter’s boys stun Super Eagles in Uyo

Baxter’s boys stun Super Eagles in Uyo

South Africa ended their 25-year winless streak against Nigeria in spectacular fashion, winning 2-0 in a 2019 African Nations Cup qualifier in Uyo on the back of second-half goals from Tokelo Rantie and Percy Tau.

Stuart Baxter also extended his record of winning against Nigeria, following a 2-1 win in the 2004 Nelson Mandela Challenge, while Gernot Rohr earned the dubious record of becoming the first Nigeria coach to lose a competitive game to South Africa.

The build-up to the game focused mostly around South Africa’s inability to find a win against the Super Eagles, and their subdued approach at the start reflected that mentality.

As expected, it was Nigeria who set the tone in the first half, pinning South Africa to their half for the majority of the early moments of the period.

Moses Simon, out on the right, was making a habit of running at Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo and getting plenty of change out of him.

But the South Africans held their lines well and survived a few moments of threats, even though goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was untested. Nigerians bayed for penalty kicks on a few occasions, but Tunisian referee Youssef Essrayri was having none of it, and rightfully so.

The best chance of the first half fell to the visitors. Goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi spilled Tebogo Langerman’s routine cross, and had to watch in despair and then relief, as the rebound was poked against the upright by midfielder Themba Zwane.

He was not so lucky in the second half. Tokelo Rantie, who scored twice the last time the two teams met at the same stadium, rose unmarked at the near post in the 54th minute to guide home a header from Ramahlwe Mphahlele’s right-wing cross to silence the crowd.

South Africa could have gone another goal up in the 72nd minute but Zwane was again desperately unlucky to watch his shot canon back off the other upright after a swift and intricate counter-attack by Bafana Bafana.

Nigeria poured forward in search of the game-tying goal and found themselves exposed 10 minutes from time following an attacking corner that was cleared.

Keagan Dolly picked the ball up and sent substitute Percy Tau clean through on goal, beating the offside trap as Nigeria were caught stranded on the opposite corner. The striker evaded Akpeyi’s attempt to pull him back and Ogenyi Onazi’s desperate slide to slot home.

As Nigeria’s energy levels flagged, South Africa grew in confidence, and could have added a couple more goals but for some wayward finishing.

Colin Udoh, KweséESPN

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