End of an African dream for Leopards

2012-07-14 19:54

Home side seemed frozen by the Johannesburg cold

That’s it. Black Leopards’ fairytale run in the Confederations Cup came to an abrupt end yesterday.

Few gave Leopards a chance to get even this far, particularly as it was their maiden run in any continental competition.

It does not augur well for the country, as Leopards’ failure means it is now six years since a South African team qualified for the group stages of a CAF competition.

Needing a victory to advance to the group stages, Leopards could only labour to a goalless draw against visiting Sudanese side El-Merreikh, who go through on a 3-2 aggregate.

In all fairness, based on their performance yesterday, Leopards did not deserve to go through as they did not do enough on the day.

They needed just a single goal to level the aggregate score and advance on an away goal rule.

This was after they scored two goals in the first leg in a 3-2 loss in Sudan a fortnight ago.

But they deserve credit for hoisting the country’s flag high up to this point.

Except for captain Mongezi Bobe’s header in the 70th minute, which goalkeeper Akram Salim saved, the home side never really threatened. They seemed to be frozen by the cold Joburg weather.

Both teams struggled to get out of first gear and it took about 20 minutes for Leopards to have a shot at goal. That summed up Leopards’ outing.

Trailing from the first leg of the game, Leopards needed to play attacking football but their approach was lukewarm, as coach Sunday Chidzambwa opted for a rather defensive line-up with Rodney Ramagalela playing as lone striker.

The visitors, on the other hand, had nothing to lose.

They were enjoying their slender aggregate lead and did not raise a sweat in the entire opening half as they waited for Leopards to pounce on them.

But with the home side seemingly enjoying playing to the gallery rather than launching attacks, the game became a dull affair – neither side was prepared to open up at the back.

Leopards only woke up in the last 10 minutes but it was a case of too little, too late, as the visitors hung on for a place in the mini-league.

As for Leopards, the experienced gained from participating in this tournament will help them a great deal in the forthcoming PSL season.

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