Soccer the big winner at under-21 tourney

MZOXOLO BUDAZA

Lansdowne’s Glendene United were crowned the inaugural champions of the Manenberg under-21 tournament after beating a stubborn Ikapa Sporting 4-2 on penalties, in a nail-biting final on Sunday.

The boys in blue may have walked away with the ultimate prize but soccer was the big winner on the day, with the Manenberg holding their own throughout the tournament.

Manenberg FC and hosts D&G Orient both qualified for the knockout stages with the former going all the way to the semi-final before losing 1-0 to an uncompromising Ikapa Sporting.

Ikapa proved to be the proverbial thorn in the side of the two Manenberg teams. A 10-man Ikapa beat the hosts 1-0 in the dying minutes of their quater-final clash before eliminating Manenberg FC 1-0 in their semi-final encounter.

The Manenberg side looked solid in the early stages of the tournament as they quietly went about their business, eliminating one opponent at a time.

They kicked their campaign off with a 2-1 win against Atlantic Nacional in their opening group match, then beat Greenwood Athletic 1-0 in their second match before going down 1-0 to Ikapa.

Sporting a black and red strip, the Manenberg side bounced back to beat Mitchell’s Plain’s Beacon Spurs 3-0 in the quarter-finals to set up another date with Ikapa, this time in the semis. In what turned out to be a replica of the group stage result, Ikapa won 1-0 to book their spot in the final against Glendene.

Manenberg coach Paul Johnson said his side played well in the competition, especially considering the opposition they came up against.

“We came here to compete and I think that’s what we did.

“The players fought hard from the first match and showed that never-say-die attitude. We showed that we can compete against teams above us in terms of the leagues they play in,” he said.

Johnson said their semi-final match against Ikapa could have gone either way but, in the end, it was the Mitchell’s Plain side’s decisiveness that separated the two teams.

“We matched them in every department and, as a result, it was an exciting match to watch. They came hard at us and we, too, went hard at them, which was something exciting for the fans.

“They took the one chance that came their way and it was game over for us. That’s what happens in football, you take the chance that comes your way,” he said.

Johnson said his side learnt valuable lessons from the tournament. Those lessons, he said, will come in handy as they start preparing for the upcoming Kenpark United under-23 tournament.

“The players have learnt a lot, especially regarding the difference between what you do when you have the ball and what you do when you don’t. You have to be prepared for each game because you come up against good sides that do their homework,” he said.

The final between Glendene and Ikapa proved to be highly exciting affair, as these two highly-talented sides battled out for the duration of the match.

There was, in the end, very little which separated the two sides as the final score was 0-0, and the penalties had to decide the outcome.

Glendene’s road to the final was impressive as they looked consistent in their approach. They collected six points in the group stages after winning two and drawing one of their three matches, scoring three goals, without conceding, in the process. Their draw came in their opening match against the Rygate LFA team.

They went on to beat JL Zwane 3-1 in the quarters before dumping Rygate on penalties after another goalless draw.

Ikapa provided the fiercest resistance to Glendene’s onslaught, as they matched their opponents in all departments. The two sides, in the end, had to be separated by penalties.

Glendene assistant coach Mangaliso “Shakes” Ntombana praised the Ikapa players for pushing his team all the way to the penalties. He admitted Ikapa was one of the most exciting and effective sides in the competition.

“The tournament was a good test for our players who, once again, showed character and delivered when the need arose. We came up against strong teams like Ikapa, JL Zwane and Rygate LFA and, despite the odds, emerged victorious,” he said.

Ntombana, like most coaches in the tournament, has his eyes firmly on the upcoming Kenpark under-23 tournament. He said his was a young team and the future was bright.

“Most of these boys will still play in next year’s tournament so there is a lot in store for this group of players,” said Ntombana.