It came down to penalties, but TUT once again got the better of cross-town rivals UP-Tuks by out-shooting them 3-2 (1-1 full-time) to clinch Thursday’s Varsity Football semi-final.
By emerging victorious, TUT now have four straight wins against their Pretoria neighbours but, more impressively, a fifth straight Varsity Football final now awaits.
The Red Machine started the match the better of the two outfits, settling into the blustery conditions at UWC Sports Stadium. That said, coach Bushy Moloi’s charges failed to create clear openings – even if UP-Tuks goalkeeper Giovanni Idi had one or two nervy moments under the high ball.
Slowly but surely, the Stripe Generation gained a foothold in the match and when Mathuane Selotola headed just over 21 minutes in it served as a warning sign to TUT.
UP-Tuks were nearly called into an early substitute when returning captain Simbongile Njokwe came off second-best in a challenge. However, in the 33rd minute (mere seconds after he returned to the field), his team took the lead. Mogau Khwinana accurately whipped in a free-kick and Jerry Tlou guided it past Sikhumbuzo Ncube. That it came, fortuously, off Tlou’s back meant little to the celebrating team.
TUT seemed a little shell-shocked as they failed to string effectively moves together, while UP-Tuks tried there hand at doubling their lead before half-time with pot-shots – unsuccessfully so.
The second half proved a cagey affair with TUT pushing and pushing but UP-Tuks’ rearguard holding firm. Intriguingly, their ‘keeper Giovanni Idi had handed goalkicking duties over to leftback Sabelo Tsambo’s whose efforts sailed deep into TUT’s half.
As time was creeping away, TUT started calling on more than their dangerous attackers to try find an opening. In the 78th centre-back Boipelo Molale struck a free-kick against the wall before – decisively – his defensive partner Mogau Mphahlele directed an edge-of-the-box header past Idi two minutes later to level matters.
Moloi saw that as the opportune moment to make a double substitution, hoping that UP-Tuks would falter on the back of conceding. It was not to be and the the referee blew for full-time with the score stuck at 1-1.
Almost immediately Ncube showed why he already has a goalkeeper of the tournament award at home and a professional contract signed. He saved UP-Tuks opening spot-kick from Khwinana – as the drizzle started. Then blocked two more in the driving rain from The Stripe Generation’s star performers Tlou and Tsambo to give TUT the best chance possible of defending their title – another final appearance.
TUT (0) 1 Mogau Mphahlele
UP-TUKS (1) 1 Jerry Tlou
TUT win penalty shootout 3-2
FNB Player of the Match: Sabelo Tsambo (UP-Tuks)
Debonairs Pizza Real Deal Save of the Match: Sikhumbuzo Ncube (TUT)
MTN Pulse Moment of Brilliance: Mogau Mphahlele (TUT)
TUT: 20. Sikhumbuzo Ncube (GK), 3. Rorisang Rapelang (capt), 5. Mogau Mphahlele, 16. Boipelo Molale, 2. Tumelo Mphela, 24. Jim Naselele, 6. Thuso Mlamla, 13. Lebogang Phatlane, 21. Tlotlo Afrika, 10. Thabiso Lebitso, 15. Ronald Mabasa.
Replacements: 25. Kgaratlo Phatsoane (GK), 4. Wisdom Mathebula, 8. Tebogo Lekaba, 11. Moses Lehlomela, 12. Loatile Tlholoe, 17. Brian Tshoba, 22. Ogorositswe Tabane.
Coach: Bushy Moloi
UP-Tuks: 16. Giovanni Idi (GK), 7. Jurgen Booysen, 5. Simbongile Njokwe (capt), 23. Chinedu Okolo, 3. Sabelo Tsambo, 20. Katlego Motlhatsang, 11. Lebohang Montueli, 26. Mathuane Selotola, 24. Jerry Tlou, 10. Mogau Khwinana, 9. Nhlanhla Mabaso.
Replacements: 18. Tyler Den Heyer (GK), 2. Tobatsi Roets, 4. Edward Rankwe, 8. Wandile Dlamini, 14. Ross Marshall, 15. Siphamandla Ntuli, 25. Sive Mfala.
Coach: Tlisane Motaung