Maritzburg United coach Eric Tinkler will sleep a lot better thanks to the kind of performance dished out by NFD clubs Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) and Royal Eagles on Saturday. It was an important match as they were vying for a spot in the PSL.
In a game in Thohoyandou yesterday, played in an almost empty stadium, the two clubs, though finding the back of the net three times, failed to convince anyone that they are ready to contest in the elite Absa Premiership.
Knowing that this was somewhat of a do-or-die game for both clubs might have got to the players and made them nervous. The game was characterised by poor decision making, cheap loss of possession and wayward shooting that has no place in the tough PSL.
The tactical acumen of the players from both sides left a lot to be desired. They made glaring errors, failing to close down on or exploit spaces. Both failed to make proper use or even threaten with set pieces.
Even the Tshakhuma fans, who normally pack the venue, appeared to have given up on their club’s chances of making it past the play-off stage, and chose to stay away. The famous Zamalek grandstand on the eastern side, usually packed to capacity with singing home fans, was empty bar a few boisterous die-hard fans who sang throughout the game.
It looked like the few fans who turned up were in for a thrilling game when Tshakhuma opened the scoring as early as the second minute through striker Wonderboy Makhubu, who beat the Eagles goalie with a fine grass cutter after a quick counterattack.
As the Eagles were still trying to regain composure and recover from the shock, Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo struck two minutes later, putting TTM 2-0 ahead.
Tshakhuma went to sleep after this goal and sat back for most of the rest of first half, making little effort to increase their lead. The Eagles, whose performance was nowhere near royal, failed to exert enough pressure to trouble the Tshakhuma defence.
They tried to stage a comeback early in the second half, even finding the net in the 49th minute through a predatory header by Levy Mashiane.
Hopeful TTM fan David Ramahada said he believed the team might still have a chance if Eagles draw or lose against Maritzburg on Wednesday. Maritzburg lead the standings with six points after beating the Eagles and TTM in the first round.
Reinette Singo, another TTM fan, said she was happy with the result and hoped for the same result in the next game between the KwaZulu-Natal sides.
TTM travel to Maritzburg to the Harry Gwala Stadium next weekend hoping to avenge their 2-0 home loss against Tinkler’s side midweek.
But Maritzburg, who have former Bafana Bafana international Siyanda Xulu on their side, have more experience than the boys from Venda, whose coach, Momcilo Medic, agreed in an interview this week that his boys might not yet be ready for the elite league.
TTM remain bottom of the three-team log despite their win with three points. They are left with only one game against Maritzburg.
This means that if Tinkler’s side beats the Eagles or plays to a draw on Wednesday, it’s curtains for the Venda-based side, who will have to return and face another gruelling season in the NFD.
Eagles goalie Patrick Nyame and a team-mate were applied a charm to the goalpost before kick-off and were rattled out of their ritual by the shrill of the referee’s whistle starting the game. – Mukurukuru Media