Stel­len­bosch pro­mote fight­ing spirit

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ROD­NEY REIN­ERS

STEL­LEN­BOSCH FC gave early no­tice that they won’t just be mak­ing up the num­bers in the three­team pro­mo­tion play-offs with a plucky 2-2 draw with Baroka FC at the Athlone Sta­dium yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

The Cape Winelands club fin­ished third in the NFD to se­cure a place in play-offs, along with fel­lowNFD side Black Leop­ards and PSL team Baroka. The win­ner of the com­pe­ti­tion is pro­moted to the top-flight PSL.

In a de­mand­ing cam­paign such as this, in which all three sides will be sali­vat­ing with des­per­a­tion and am­bi­tion, char­ac­ter and courage will be very im­por­tant.

And, in yes­ter­day’s open­ing fix­ture, Stel­len­bosch proved they have those traits in spades. Twice they went be­hind to the PSL op­po­si­tion they were fac­ing, and twice they rat­tled back to level.

Yes­ter­day’s valiant per­for­mance au­gurs well for the rest of their cam­paign.

If any­thing, Stel­len­bosch were un­done by the ten­ta­tive man­ner in which they started the game. It was a nervy open­ing from the home side and, as a re­sult, Baroka could have scored twice in­side the open­ing five min­utes. The NFD team’s de­fence strug­gled to stay com­pact early on, but, for­tu­nately, both Maboke Mat­lakala and Vic­tor Let­soala squan­dered the op­por­tu­ni­ties that came Baroka’s way.

Af­ter that ini­tial pe­riod, in which they strug­gled to find their feet, the Western Cape team grad­u­ally got go­ing – and they were un­lucky not to take the lead when Diego Brown missed an invit­ing chance in­side the penalty area in the 30th minute.

It was Baroka who drew first blood, how­ever, when Nkosi­nathi Ndlovu’s deep cross al­lowed Mx­olisi Kunene to head in at far post with six min­utes to go be­fore half-time.

Stel­len­bosch then showed the mea­sure of their de­ter­mi­na­tion as they stormed back with a won­der­ful equaliser from Jar­rod Moroole four min­utes later, the hard­work­ing mid­field lash­ing in a left-foot vol­ley that evaded the out­stretched hands of Baroka goal­keeper Os­carine Ma­su­luke.

If the open­ing stages were a bit scrappy, the sec­ond pe­riod was cer­tainly bet­ter. Both teams set­tled into a nice rhythm, they went for broke, and there was a fan­tas­tic en­ergy and in­ten­sity about the game. It was again Baroka who edged in front 10 min­utes into the sec­ond half when Ndlovu curled in a de­light­ful free­kick that went in off the un­der­side of the cross­bar.

But, again, Stel­len­bosch never let al­lowed their heads to drop. The in­domitable spirit of their play­ers con­tin­ued to shine through. In fact, the set­back served only to in­spire them to lift their game even more. The Cape side’s coach Sammy Troughton made his at­tack­ing in­ten­tions known by with­draw­ing right­back Matthew Row­ell for striker Cleophas Dube. It nearly had im­me­di­ate div­i­dends when Dube headed wide with his first touch of the ball.

But, by then 62nd minute, Stel­len­bosch were level at 2-2. Like Baroka, they scored via a free-kick, when Brown whipped the ball to the far post, where David Booy­sen was lurk­ing to head in the valu­able equaliser.

Things opened up and it led to a fre­netic close to the fi­nal stages of the game as both teams looked to win at the death. De­spite goal­mouth ac­tion at both ends, the en­counter ended all-square at 2-2, which was prob­a­bly a fair re­flec­tion of the ac­tion on of­fer.

Next up for Stel­len­bosch will be Black Leop­ards, who they face in Venda on Satur­day.

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