There was a break in South African league football this weekend with the commencement of the MTN 8 knockout tournament. The quarter-finals of the tournament kicked off in the weekend, consisting of the teams that finished in the top 8 on the DSTV Premiership table last season. The majority of the games were contested very closely and we got to see some entertaining games in the weekend as a result.
The first game took place in the Western Cape when Cape Town City took on AmaZulu for a chance to qualify for the semi finals. AmaZulu scored the first goal of the tournament through Augustine Chidi Kwem in just 9 minutes to give the KZN club the lead. It went to be back and forth from there and both teams coming very close to get one over their opponents, but it was The Citizens who were visibly and understandingly putting on more pressure since they were chasing the game. They would be rewarded just on the brink of half-time in the 46th minute when Khanyisa Mayo got the leveller for them and they would go to the break at 1-1. The next 45 minutes continued as the mid-stages of the first with both teams pressing each other but it would eventually end 1-1 at the 90, and it would be veteran Lehlohonolo Majoro who would give the eventual winners, AmaZulu the lead at the 113th minute (extra time). It was a competitve and entertaining game at Athlone Stadium for sure.
The action that followed was viewed at The Chatsworth Stadium as Royal AM played hosts to the Soweto giants, Orlando Pirates. This 2nd quarter-final of the tournament and the day kicked off at 17h30, and it was the Buccaneers who struck the first blow when they took the lead after just 3 minutes of play (Vincent Pule). The first half ended 1-0 in favour of Pirates, after both sides came very close to scoring missing glaring chances on each end. Just after 10 minutes played in the second half, James Monyane was credited with Pirates’ second goal after an error by Royal AM goalkeeper Zakahle Ngcobo. Royal AM was back in the game just 3 minutes after Pirates doubled their lead with a calm tap in finish from Mokete Mogaila to give Dan Malesela’s side a deserved goal and a lifeline. However, regardless of their many chances to follow and the inability to finish off chances, they ended up losing the game 2-1 and Pirates advanced. The drama was found in the final seconds when the referee brandished red cards to two players from Royal AM (Khethukuthula Ndlovu) and Pirates (Goodman Mosele) for violent conduct.
Sunday was the day for the 2nd half of the quarter-final rounds, and the first of those was also at the Western Cape when Stellenbosch faced Kaizer Chiefs. The game was heavily attended by Amakhosi fans showing strong support to their team, and rightly so they would be rewarded with a relatively better performance from Chiefs. However the first half was more of Stellenbosch attacking the Soweto giants, and Chiefs struggling to create chances, it would continue to be tightly locked throughout the entire first half as the sides went into the break at 0-0. It was Stellenbosch who drew first blood in minute 48 thanks to an error by Njabulo Ngcobo, Mendieta putting the young defender, winning the ball and putting it on a platter for Sihle Nduli who made no mistake with his finish. Ten minutes later, another glaring error was made in the game, this time by Stellies defender Oswin Andries, misplacing a pass back to his goalkeeper. Former Stellenbosch forward (now at Kaizer Chiefs), Ashley Du Preez, capitalised on the mistake and was able to equalize for his club and make it 1-1.
The game went into extra time and the teams still remained locked horned, and it would remain so up until the 120th minute. It would be the one and only tie that would be forced into penalties in the quarter-final stages, and it was here that we witnessed the heroics of captain and legendary goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune. The 35-year old was able to stop 2 of the Stellies penalties to give his team the win and send them through to the semi-finals. Having done something somewhat spectacular earlier in the game:
The last game of the quarter-finals was in the form of a Tshwane derby feauring Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United. This would be the first of these teams’ back-to-back clashes between the league and the cup. In a game that many expected to be heavily one-sided, Matsatsantsa held their own by creating more goalscoring chances than their rivals, but unfortunately for them unable to finish them off. They would go to the half-time interval level, 0-0, and the first 15 minutes of the 2nd interval continued in the same fashion as SuperSport created better chances but unable to convert. In the 80th minute, Sundowns would punish SuperSport for their profligacy in front of goal through substitute and record-signing, Marcelo Allende scoring to give Sundowns a 1-0 lead. Another new signing and substitue, Abubeker Nassir, solidified Sundowns’ lead in the final minute of the 90 and would ultimately give his team the victory and send them through to the last four of the competition.
The semi-final draw of the MTN8 tournament is done today at 20h30 on DSTV channel 202.