UJ booked themselves a spot in the Varsity Football Final after an enthralling semifinal against UFS-Kovsies in Soweto on Monday night.
With the match tied at 2-2 on the final whistle, UJ edged their hosts in a nail-biting penalty shoot-out, eventually winning by three penalties to one.
Kovsies won the toss to kick-off the match, but UJ won the ball back quickly and tried to assert themselves with Wisdom Mathebula trying his luck from range.
His attempt didn’t bother stopper Serasengoe Moodie, however two minutes into the match the wing-back did get the better of the goalkeeper, driving in a thumping shot to give UJ an early lead.
The one-nil lead seemed to give the hosts confidence as they spent much of the first ten minutes in Kovsies’ half.
Winger Ruben De Freitas was next to come close after breaking through on the right before unleashing a low drive across goal, but his effort went wide.
UJ definitely looked the better team in the opening 15 minutes, getting the better of UFS with quick passing and lots of movement off the ball. The only thing letting them down was their final pass to unlock the Kovsies defence.
Kovsies soaked up the pressure and looked to get the better of UJ on the break, but the strong presence of Grant Bruchhausen swept away any threat the visitors posed, giving the hosts the edge to hang on to their lead.
Thirty minutes into the match Kovsies seemed to gain some momentum going forward but still failed to make any of their attacks count.
UFS did find a way through though after a slip by Bruchhausen allowed Walter Phori to pounce on a cross in from the left – Phori with a side-footed volley to equal the score.
The second half saw Kovsies playing with much more confidence as they brought the ball into UJ’s half more.
After winning a free-kick from what looked like a good tackle from Bruchhausen, Marothodi Phillies bundled the ball into the back of the net for UJ to concede from yet another set-piece.
UJ then got back into the game when De Freitas found himself with a yard of space on the right in the 58th minute and whipped in a dangerous cross just behind the Kovsies defence for Kaylan More to bravely head in for the equaliser.
With the score locked at 2-2 UJ turned the heat on their opponents in the last 15 minutes of the match and UFS again looked to catch the Johannesburg students on the break.
UJ defender Lwazi Nogenga then found himself in hot water on 80 minutes after pulling down a UFS player to prevent an attack on goal. The referee showed Nogenga a red card for the offense and UJ were down to 10 men for the last ten minutes.
After 90 minutes with the scores locked at 2-2 the referee blew for full-time and the players prepared themselves for a penalty shootout.
Tshepo Tolo stepped up to take the first penalty and scored. Jay Jay Groenewald missed his shot. Lumkile Dava scored for UJ. Lehlohonolo Mokoena scored with a cheeky chip down the middle.
Tebego Mandyu then scored his effort. Manxubandile Bantshi failed to beat UJ goalkeeper Mduduzi Khumalo. Kaylan More could have won it for UJ but sent his effort wide of goal. UFS captain Themba Zimo then stepped up to get Kovsies back into it, but sent his shot over the bar for UJ to celebrate their win and a place in the finals next week.
Super Striker: Wisdom Mathebula
Man of the Match: Sandro Claro
For UJ: Wisdom Mathebula, Kaylan More
For Kovsies: Walter Phori, Marathodi Phillies
UJ: 1 Mduduzi Khumalo, 22 Wisdom Mathebula, 6 Lwazi Nogenga, 5 Lerato Tleane, 12 Kaylan More, 21 Grant Bruchhausen (captain), 11 Tshepo Tolo, 7 Ruben De Freitas, 13 Sandro Claro, 18 Pontsho Nyathi, 14 Karl Clements.
Substitutes: 16 Trent Harrison, 19 Ruwell Jagger, 9 Lumkile Dava, 20 Mfundo Mazibuko, 17 Jarred Abrahams, 15 Omphile Majwafi.
UFS: 1 Serasengoe Moodie, 4 Marathodi Phillies, 12 Kakudi Moreleba, 19 Jarred Meyer, 20 Dumisani Tjomelane, 15 Themba Zimo (captain), 24 Dylan O’Brien, 11 Lehlohonolo Mokoena, 7 Walter Phori, 6 Manxubandile Bantshi, 10 Simon Modupi.
Substitutes: 13 Tsoeu Mphezulu, 3 Unathi Mabandla, 2 Khauhelo Kholotsa, 16 Lehlohonolo Thaele, 9 Jay Jay Groenewald, 14 Glen Rikhotso, 22 Tebello Mokotjo.