TUT continued their unbeaten start to the 2019 Varsity Football season by edging NWU Mafikeng 2-1 in an exciting opening game of the double header on Thursday.
Playing a match on neutral ground for the first time, both TUT (the designated home team) and NWU played out a cagey first half.
TUT had the balance of play on the whole, but NWU didn’t want for chances either. At the same time, the Noble Boys’ rhythm was broken through injury assessments for both fullbacks, Kananelo Motsoeneng and Lesego Motsepe, as well as goalkeeper Kagiso Ramadivhane.
TUT very nearly went a goal up on the half-hour mark when a corner from Wisdom Mathebula was steered goalwards by Ronald Mabasa, only for NWU’s Sibusiso Ndlovu to clear it off the line.
NWU were also constantly threatened by the pace of Thabiso Lebitso down the right wing, but he couldn’t produce a decisive cross.
It was much the same for Israel Matshane. The NWU winger first wasted a chance in the 40th when he lobbed over TUT goalkeeper Sikhumbuzo Ncube and the crossbar before drawing a smart save from Ncube three minutes later from a header.
Meanwhile, the second half began in an even more cagey manner than the first half until the game came to life with 15 minutes to go.
Thuso Mlamla opened the scoring in the 76th minute with a 30m piledriver worthy of the moment of brilliance award he received.
TUT were then almost caught napping when NWU captain Paseka Matsheka should have done better than steer the ball past the upright. His mistake was further punished when TUT doubled their lead in the 83rd minute.
Ronald Mabasa headed over the line following a goalmouth scramble, which itself only came after TUT wasted a three-on-two scenario in the box.
The second half brought new life to NWU who threw everything at TUT. Their reward came when, just moments after having three bites at the cherry, Simphiwe Mlangeni side-footed home to make it 2-1 and a nervy finish.
TUT, however, held on to claim their third win on the trot to reaffirm their determination to defend the title they won for a second time last year.
TUT (0) 2 Thuso Mlamla, Ronald Mabasa
NWU (0) 1 Simphiwe Mlangeni
FNB Player of the Match: Thabiso Lebitso (TUT)
Debonairs Pizza Real Deal Save of the Match: Sikhumbuzo Ncube (TUT)
MTN Pulse Moment of Brilliance: Thuso Mlamla (TUT)
TUT: 20. Sikhumbuzo Ncube (GK), 3. Rorisang Rapelang (capt), 5. Mogau Mphahlele, 16. Boipelo Molale, 2. Tumelo Mphela, 8. Tebogo Lekaba, 6. Thuso Mlamla, 10. Thabiso Lebitso, 4. Wisdom Mathebula, 13. Lebogang Phatlane, 15. Ronald Mabasa.
Replacements: 1. Rorisang Mpoza (GK), 28. Tiego Mathebe, 11. Moses Lehlomela, 21. Tlotlo Afrika, 22. Ogorositswe Tabane, 27. Hendrick Xaba, 24. Jim Naselele.
NWU: 27. Kagiso Ramadivhane (GK), 22. Lesego Motsepe, 2. Tholinhlanhla Masuku, 14. Tshepiso Mahlangu, 8. Kananelo Motsoeneng, 6. Lindani Nkabinde, 5. Sibusiso Ndlovu, 7. Paseka Matsheka (capt), 16. Israel Matshane, 24. Mandisi Gadla, 23. Simphiwe Mlangeni.
Replacements: 28. Luzuko Jevuka (GK), 18. Tshepang Morakile, 10. Tshepo Baholo, 21. Banele Hlophe, 12. Bongani Taaibosch, 9. Adam Fynn, 3. Wandile Luvuno.