MTN8 hopefuls Polokwane City and Highlands Park parry but fail to pounce

Ricardo Williams of Highlands Park and Lesiba Nku of Polokwane City duringtheir MTN8 first-leg semifinal yesterday. Picture: Philip Maeta / Gallo Images
Ricardo Williams of Highlands Park and Lesiba Nku of Polokwane City duringtheir MTN8 first-leg semifinal yesterday. Picture: Philip Maeta / Gallo Images

Polokwane City 0

Highlands Park 0

Is Polokwane City at an advantage going into the second leg of the MTN8 semifinals? Or is it Highlands Park?

Depending on which side of the fence one sits, yesterday’s goalless draw between the two sides means there is a lot to play for in the second leg on September 17.

While Rise and Shine head coach Zlatko Krmpotic must be pleased with yesterday’s result, particularly after keeping a clean sheet at home, his Highlands Park counterpart Owen Da Gama would also be pleased that he did not concede.

But Da Gama knows that whatever Polokwane City do in the second leg, he will have to double the score as City would have the advantage of an away goal.

However, City should know that it won’t be easy to beat Highlands in their own backyard in front of their home supporters in Tembisa.

There was not much to write home about in the first half of yesterday’s encounter as neither team created any scoring chances.

It was more of a tactical game as both sides sussed each other out for the better part of the opening stanza, with much play in the middle of the park.

There were fewer than 1 000 fans at the stadium, and they surely would have much rather been elsewhere.

It would have been hard to convince someone who was at the stadium for the first time that both teams were professional sides playing in the last four of a national competition.

However, the second half brought some life with it, with the home side playing good attacking football.

City could have opened the lead four minutes into the second half, but Wiseman Maluleke’s shot inside the box went straight to Highlands Park goalkeeper Thela Ngobeni.

Seeing that his side was lacking creativity and leadership, Krmpotic substituted veteran midfielder and captain Jabu Maluleke for Eden Nene in the 57th minute.

The 37-year-old almost broke the deadlock, but his free kick went inches over the crossbar.

Krmpotic will surely be kicking himself for not putting Maluleke in the starting 11. As soon as he came on, the intrepid midfielder changed the complexion of the game and created scoring chances for his team, but, unfortunately, they were all wasted as Highlands defenders Marks Munyai, Ricardo Williams and Ryan Rae stood firm at the back and thwarted every City attempt.

For all its solid defence, Highlands didn’t pose a threat to City goalie Mwenya Chibwe.

The two teams, neither of which has reached a cup final since the PSL came into being, have all to do in the second leg of this winner-takes-all competition if they want a shot at the R8 million prize money.

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