TUT beat UKZN 2-0 at Tuks Stadium on Sunday to sneak into the Varsity Football semi-finals, while defending champions NWU were eliminated after suffering a 2-1 loss to Tuks.
The semi-finals will take place at Tuks Stadium on Tuesday, with table-topping UJ facing fourth-placed TUT (16:00) before second-placed Tuks meet third-placed UFS (18:00).
Both semi-finals will be live on SuperSport Variety 4 (DStv channel 209).
UJ 5 VUT 3
UJ secured top spot on the Varsity Football log with a convincing win at the Tuks B-Field that ended VUT’s semi-final hopes.
The referee lost control of the game, awarding three penalties in a drama-filled encounter.
UJ’s Nkosinathi Sibiya scored the quickest goal of the tournament with his first touch in the second minute. It opened up the game by forcing VUT to come out and play.
Sibiya turned from hero to villain when he conceded a penalty for committing a foul on Charles Sikhosana. UJ players surrounded the referee but their protests fell on deaf ears and Sibusiso Mokondo stepped up to convert the spot-kick in the eighth minute.
VUT then conceded a penalty at the other end of the field when Thapelo Bodiba fouled Ngoanamello Rammala and Pogiso Mabote stepped up to restore UJ’s lead.
Rammala turned provider for Tristan Nikitaridis to tap in UJ’s third goal in the 18th minute and Nikitaridis completed his brace with a scorcher in the 20th minute to make it 4-1.
It was an early birthday present for Nikitaridis, who turns 22 on Tuesday, and he would receive the FNB Player of the Match award for his outstanding performance.
The referee again took centre stage when first blowing for a goal kick and then changing his mind and awarding a penalty to VUT – claiming that Thabang Lebese had fouled Kamohelo Ramalefane.
UJ’s protests were again ignored and Thulani Sibisi stepped up to convert the spot-kick in the 61st minute – his fifth goal of the tournament.
By pushing more bodies forward, VUT exposed themselves at the back and UJ substitute Ndabezinhle Nkosi tapped in Pogiso Mabote’s cross from close range.
Thando Mnyakeni scored VUT’s third with a thumping shot on the edge of the 18-yard box in the 88th minute, but it was too little, too late.
TUKS 2 NWU 1
Selotola Mathuane’s 87th-minute goal secured second spot on the log for Tuks, while eliminating the defending champions.
NWU’s Lesego Motsepe came agonisingly close to equalising two minutes later, but his free kick went just over the crossbar.
After three penalties in the first match of the day at the Tuks B-Field, there were two within 24 minutes of the second.
Banele Hlophe opened the scoring for NWU with a sixth-minute penalty before Nhlanhla Mabaso equalised from the spot for Tuks.
The start of the second half was delayed due to a swarm of bees and when play did resume, Tuks almost took the lead with Lebohang Montueli’s bicycle kick going just wide.
It looked like the game was heading for a draw, but Mathuane struck late, as Tuks have done so often in this tournament.
Tuks captain Blessing Mabasa was named the FNB Player of the Match.
UFS 1 WITS 0
Kovsies booked their place in the semi-finals with a hard-fought win at Tuks Stadium.
Alonso Diedricks’ 41st-minute goal proved to be the difference between the teams, as Kovsies players celebrated wildly at the final whistle, while Wits players were in tears.
It was going to take something special for either team to find the back of the net in a tightly contested first half.
Kovsies’ Sello Diphoko thought he had scored his sixth goal of the tournament in the 20th minute, but the referee did not believe the ball had crossed the line while being saved by Wits goalkeeper Phelelani Mavuso.
Tebogo Mandyu had the best chance for Wits, on the half-hour mark, before Mavuso tipped UFS skipper’s Thabo Lesibe effort over the bar.
Late in the half, Lesibe hit the crossbar and Diedricks was there to break the deadlock.
In the second half, Wits threw everything at Kovsies, who relied on counter-attacks.
Wits received set-pieces but failed to utilise them. Saluleko Mathonsi came the closest to scoring for them in the 51st minute when his header sailed over the bar.
Lesibe was then yellow-carded for time-wasting as Kovsies players frustrated Wits in the closing stages and defended as if their lives depended on it.
Lesibe won the FNB Player of the Match award.
TUT 2 UKZN 0
Tshepiso Mnisi and Tiego Mathebe scored first-half goals as TUT snuck into the semi-finals.
TUT coach Bushy Moloi was hoping for the perfect start at Tuks Stadium and it came courtesy of Mnisi.
In the 37th minute, Mathebe then all but guaranteed his team’s place in the top four when he scored from a rebound, after Tebogo Lekaba’s shot had hit the post, to spark wild celebrations.
TUT played without pressure after taking a 2-0 lead and took their foot off the pedal in the second half.
The Red Machine made a slow start to their campaign but have finished the league stage strongly and will go into Tuesday’s semi-final against UJ with confidence.
Semi-final fixtures (Tuesday, 28 September):
UJ vs TUT (16:00, Tuks Stadium, SuperSport Variety 4, channel 209)
Tuks vs UFS (18:00, Tuks Stadium, SuperSport Variety 4, channel 209)
By Charles Baloyi
Photos: TUT/Catherine Kotze/Christiaan Kotze/Varsity Sports