By Michael Madyira
Bafana Bafana sparked hopes of the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualification with a 2-1 victory over Benin at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.
Percy Tau returned to the national team in style with immediate influence by breaking the deadlock two minutes into the contest.
Khuliso Mudau doubled South Africa’s advantage in two minutes of the first-half’s stoppage time while Steve Mounie hit one back for the Cheetahs with 20 minutes remaining.
The result saw Bafana becoming the first team to record victory and assume Group C pole position after draws in other matches earlier in the week.
Bafana coach Hugo Broos didn’t tamper much with the team that frustrated Ivory Coast during the October international friendly match in Abidjan, making just two changes.
Besides Tau, Orlando Pirates forward Evidence Evidence Makgopa also returned to the national side and played his first Bafana match since June 2022.
Benin were led by former Huddersfield Town star Mounie and under the tutelage of former Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr.
It was the second meeting between the two sides who first clashed at the 2004 Afcon finals when Siyabonga Nomvethe struck a brace in Sfax, Tunisia.
Just two minutes into the match, Tau superbly finished a Sphephelo Sithole through pass for his 14th goal in Bafana colours.
Benin rarely troubled the home side who also seemed to feel comfortable after Tau’s strike.
But just after the half-hour mark, Tau’s powerful shot from an acute angle was punched to safety by Benin’s Mauritania-born goalkeeper Owolabi Allagbe.
Mudau then beat the halftime by finishing a loose ball off a Benin defender trying to clear the danger as the visitors’ rearguard was struggling to cope with a Bafana attack involving Tau and Themba Zwane.
The two sides came from the break without posing much danger to each other but Teboho Mokoena had his shot cleared on the goalline by defensive midfielder Sessi D’Almeida on 67 minutes.
An unmarked Mounie then connected at, first time, a Jodel Dossou long cross to reduce the arrears for the Cheetahs.
Pictured above: Bafana Bafana forward Percy Tau being challenged by a Benin player.
Image source: Bafana Bafana