SAB U21 National Championships wrap: Day 2

Gv general view of the Action during the 2018 SAB League National U21 Championships match between Mpumalanga and Gauteng at King Zwelithini Stadium. (©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

Gv general view of the Action during the 2018 SAB League National U21 Championships match between Mpumalanga and Gauteng at King Zwelithini Stadium. (©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

There is still plenty to play for in the SAB U21 National Championships, as Day 2 of the tournament brought plenty of twists and turns at the King Zwelithini Stadium.

As expected, the first match of the day between the defending Champs, Gauteng and the home team Kwa-Zulu Natal kept spectators on their toes with end-to-end action from both sides.

KwaZulu Natal was the first to hit the back of the net and subsequently doubled their lead. Despite the Natal teams’ dominance, Gauteng was relentless in their pursuit for a goal, hitting the crossbar and missing chances before pulling one back before the half-time.

With the home side slowly losing their command of the game, Armstrong Gumbi (Jersey no.6) was the first to receive a straight red card after a scuffle with the match official.

As the pace of the game increased, so did the tension on the pitch, which saw captain of Gauteng receive his second yellow of the game after making a dangerous tackle. Both teams went into the second half with ten players and a score line of 2-1 to KwaZulu Natal. Eight minutes into the second half, Gauteng equalized through a penalty scored by Itumeleng Khiba (Jersey no.17).

Gauteng’s celebrations did not last long as Kwa-Zulu Natal went back into the lead through a goal by Bongisani Nkosi. Discipline was once again a problem as a third yellow card of the game was given to Sifiso Khumalo of Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Having to come back from behind twice in the game, it seemed unlikely for Gauteng to equalize this time, but with one extra man on the pitch the team kept pushing forward until the last minutes of the game, when the they managed to equalize. The high paced game kept fans, players and even the benches on their toes from the first to the last minute.

Gutsy match official, Kamogelo Molutsi also stole the show, as he awarded three red cards during the heated match, where two of the home team players where sent for early showers, much to the dissatisfaction of the home crowd.

Molutsi who was part of the 2018 SAB Match Officials D-License Skills Camp earlier this year expressed how being part of the SAB Skills Camp taught him how to handle the pressure that comes with being a match official: “You have to have guts as a referee. People will not always be happy with what you are doing.” Said Molutsi.

“I mean, laws are laws. I just have to get in there and apply the laws, that’s it. The pressure from the crowd gets to you, but you have to ignore everything (external) and focus on the game.” he continued. With four years’ experience as a match official in the SAB League and the third division, similarly to the players, Molutsi views the SAB U21 National Championships as an opportunity for him and other Match Officials to be scouted “There are scouts here who are going to see us, maybe in the near future I will be officiating in the Premier Soccer League.” concluded a stern Molutsi

KwaZulu Natal’s exciting style of play, unique celebrations and 21-year old Sgcino Mhlongo (Jersey no.10) has thrilled the crowds in attendance. Mhlongo stood out from Day 1 as he scored a brace in their match against Northern Cape. His knack for goals continued into Day 2 as he once again found the back of the net twice.

The Empangeni-born player found the back of the net once again as Kwa-Zulu Natal sunk Free State’s ambitions to reach the semi-finals in a tough encounter that ended 2-1. Sgcino who named SAB League graduate, Siphesihle Ndlovu as one of his rolemodels is well on his way to being the country’s top player as he was awarded Man-Of-The-Match in both games

As the log stands in Group A, defending Champions Gauteng may not qualify for the semi-finals as they failed to register any wins on Day 2 and have 4 points while Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu Natal each have seven points.

Free State and Team Northern Cape which lost all their games in the group are both mathematically unable to qualify as Free State has played all four games and only managed to collect four points from their group games.

Northern Cape did not manage to collect any points from their three games and despite having a game against Gauteng on Day 3, will not be able to catch up to any of the other four teams.

Group B will prove to have the most interesting fixtures on Day, as four of the teams are on six points each, with a game to go. The outcome of today’s game will determine which two teams between Limpopo, USSA, North West and the Eastern Cape will advance to the semi-finals.

The Western Cape proved to not be strong enough to challenge with the other teams, as they failed to register any wins in all four of their matches.

Games on Day 3, 19 July 2018 at the King Zwelithini Stadium will begin at 11am.

Day 2 Results:

Gauteng 3 – 3 Kwa-Zulu Natal
North West 0 – 2 Eastern Cape
Northern Cape 1 – 4 Free State
USSA 4 – 1 Western Cape
Mpumalanga 1 – 0 Gauteng
Limpopo 0 – 3 North West
Free State 1 – 2 KwaZulu Natal
Western Cape 2 – 3 Eastern Cape

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