Plucky Avendale Athletico punch above their weight

MZOXOLO BUDAZA

Kewtown’s Avendale Athletico’s return to the Metropolitan Premier Cup, after an absence of more than five years, was a bittersweet one as they were able to go as far as the last 16 of this year’s competition before going down 4-0 to visiting English Premiership side Swansea City.

As inexperienced as they were, Avendale produced some gutsy performances throughout the competition before Swansea proved to have too much firepower.

In fact, they were able to punch well above their weight as they topped Group F ahead of big name PSL sides Bloemfontein Celtic and University of Pretoria, as well as newcomers Ikapa Sporting. Avendale collected six points after recording a win, a scoring draw and a non-scoring draw in their three group matches.

Avendale had a decent start to the competition, drawing 1-all with newcomers Ikapa in their first match, with Darren Patrick Nelson finding the back of the net for them.

They went on to draw 0-0 with Bloemfontein Celtic before stunning Tuks 2-0 in the dramatic final group match which saw one of their players, Reagen Kapp getting a red card. Tauriq Thorne and Wade van Wyk found the back of the net for the Kewtown side on the day

That set up another difficult encounter with Swansea in the quarter finals. The nippy and skilful Avendale players could not handle their much bigger and more aggressive opponents. Swansea, in the end, won 1-0 to end Avendale’s run in this year’s competition.

As much as they were aware they were up against some of the strongest teams around, Avendale fancied their chances at this year’s competition. Who could blame them? After all they had a good run in the qualifiers, catching many people by surprise.

They booked their spot in this year’s competition after finishing second in Group G of the qualifiers behind Khayelitsha’s Might United. They were, in that process responsible for the downfall of favourites and 2014 quarter-finalists Santos whom they beat 1-0 in the last match of the qualifiers. They went to the tournament with that fear-no-one mentality.

Coach Kevin Botto made it clear long before the tournament that the competition was an opportunity for his players, who he described as true soldiers, to show what they are capable of.

This, he said was because they gave their all to make sure the side gets back to the Premier Cup after all those years. “I told the players that I am only a coach and could only do so much. It was up to them to go out there and take us to Belhar and that’s what they did,” said Botto.

* Meanwhile, last year’s champions Glendene United lost 2-0 against Atlantic Nacional after getting their campaign to retain their title off to a good start in the group stage.

The Lansdowne-based side topped Group A with eight points after beating Beaufort West’s Juventus 1-0, Gauteng’s Harmony Academy 2-1 and playing to a 1-all draw against Grassy Park’s Southampton FC