A first half strike from Tekelo Rantie and an own goal from impressive debutant Christopher Wekesa snatched the win for the visitors as Kenya’s dependable captain, Dennis Oliech netted from the spot to score what proved to be a consolation.
“It’s a bit of a pity for conceding the second goal but overall I’m satisfied with the spirit shown by the players. It was a positive from the players since I have not had much of time with them.
“The aim of friendly games is to discover the strengths and weaknesses of the team and I believe that I will they will improve with time,” the Frenchman who has taken Cameroon, Tunisia, Morocco and Ivory Coast to the World Cup said after the pulsating encounter.
It was anything but a friendly after the opening whistle went, with South Africa determined to get off the blocks with a bang having brought out their media cavalry that saw the match beamed on three pay TV SuperSport channels including on High Definition across the continent.
With World Cup star Siphiwe Tshabalala, who made his name by sending a rocket past Mexico in the opening 2010 World Cup match in his country, revelling on the left early on with dangerous crosses, Kenya were pegged back and reduced to employing the long ball to get out of jail in the opening minutes.
As Nyayo Stadium went into a lull, the silence was enhanced after 18 minutes when midfielder, Lerato Chabangu found Swedish side Malmo forward Rantie who advanced into space and planted the ball past Arnold Origi for the opener.
In truth, the visitors who lost 1-0 to Poland on Friday were far superior in getting the basics right and the goal put the sting into their tails as they went on to dominate the hosts in possession for majority of the opening half.
However, Stars got their act together three minutes from the break when Celtic FC star, Vincent Wanyama threaded the ball through to Oliech; by far the best player for Kenya and his intended pass to debutant Wesley Kemboi saw the latter tumble in the box.
The referee adjudged it a dive and yellow carded the Western Stima striker instead of awarding the penalty Stars and their fans demanded as the teams went to half time 1-0 in favour of Bafana.
Another stellar performer for the hosts, Norway based keeper, Arnold Origi, who hardly placed a step wrong, came to the rescue five minutes after the break when he parried a dangerous Bradley Parker low cross to safety.
The game settled down to a show of great industry but little penetration from the hosts and containment from the visitors until 18 minutes from the final whistle.
Bafana captain and Greek side PAOK defender, Bongeni Khumalo was penalised for hand ball and Kenya finally had the lifeline their second half bravely merited.
Oliech took a long step back before dispatching the spot kick past Mamelodi Sundowns keeper Wayne Sandilands for the leveller as the fans rose to their feet in ecstasy.
Amid the massive roar greeting the equaliser, Bafana went up the field and worked the ball to Parker who once again, flashed the ball across goal and the retreating Wekesa turned it in to his own net for the eventual winner.
Michel, who sat almost emotionless in the dug out, only applauding Oliech’s penalty, sent in Thika United striker, Moses Arita for Kemboi and the switch almost paid immediate dividends when he almost forced in the second equaliser five minutes from time with virtually his first touch.
A dose of time wasting and substitutions by Bafana coach Gordon Ingesund saw his team through the finish line as the absorbing clash ended 2-1.
“It was harsh but it was given by the referee but I’m pleased we had character to come back and win the game. We need to remember these trips are demanding and we knew we had to do a job and in the end, we did,” Khumalo said after the match.
His opposite number, Oliech, noted, “I only trained under Michel for four days and I can tell he has a lot of experience and we should give him time. We were playing an experienced team and he told us win or lose, I’m trying players I have to thank the boys.”
At least, Stars emerged with a silver lining after many false dawns in recent times as they strive to improve from position 128 in the Fifa rankings and South Africa have a victory to take back to their expectant fans as they prepare to host the 2013 Africa Nations Cup.
In a way, it was a win-win situation for both competitors on a clear Nairobi night.