Oh how I miss it… flashback to 14 August 2019 and the opening of the newly minted Zungu Soccer Pavilion at Hilton College’s newly dedicated football ground, Zungu Field…
Results in recent years suggested there wouldn’t be much in it, but visitors Michaelhouse were full value for their first team’s 2-0 soccer victory over home side Hilton College on this balmy Autumn afternoon (14 August 2019) in the beautiful KZN midlands.
Jono Cook feature image: The Hilton and Michaelhouse first teams line up before the 14 August 2019 match that heralded the opening of the Zungu Soccer Pavilion on Zungu Field at the Hilton campus.
It is worth mentioning that Boys of Hilton were without their talismanic 2018 SA U17 soccer captain, match-winning goalkeeper and Manchester City trialist Constandino Christodoulou, who is out for two weeks due to injury.
And it is worth speculating whether Costi could have kept out the brace of goals that eluded his replacement, Jacob Kethro, but it would have taken a pair of phenomenal saves to deny first the on-song Men of House striker Alex Vermeulen and then fellow frontrunner the irrepressible Thabo Dlamini.
In truth, Jacob was offered very little protection by his defenders on both extremely well-taken goalscoring occasions so, Costi or no Costi, I think that this match belonged to House by a distance.
The Michaelhouse victory stage was set from the get-go, and Hilton were never given a chance to get back in the game or seriously threaten the visitors’ control.
After the initial midfield tussle for possession, a superb through-ball into the big box in the 5th minute found the athletic Michaelhouse striker Alex Vermeulen, who was strongly tackled before he could get in a goalshot.
In the 9th minute, great play on attack by Men of House centre back Luc Pousson saw a turnover but the versatile first XV rugby player was back in a jack-flash to close down a Hilton College counter-attack. This standout cameo of the Michaelhouse intent proved to be a blueprint for the game – Hilton were seldom given space.
Two minutes later a superb curling left-to-right free-kick by Michaelhouse left midfielder Mugabi Lubinga was placed square in the aerial zone of the dangerous Alex Vermeulen but a top-class header out of danger, under tremendous pressure, by Hilton College centre back Tapiwa Mushonga snuffed out the real and present danger.
Then nippy Michaelhouse marksman Thabo Dlamini got in the first of numerous goalshots in this absorbing match but Hilton keeper Jacob Kethro handled the threat comfortably.
It was all Men of House in the opening stages but the Hilton College tackles were decisive, accurate and very hard – there was no quarter asked or given in this annual soccer match – and one sensed that Boys of Hilton were beginning to find their feet.
The snag, though, was that Michaelhouse marksman and incisive 2019 KZN Inland U18 hockey forward Thabo Dlamini and partner upfront Alex Vermeulen [the 2021 Michaelhouse 1st XV captain), ably assisted by Siyanda Mkhize, were looking exceptionally sharp – and being supplied with a striker’s dream – lots of quality ball.
In the 17th minute Michaelhouse’s busy Gareth Kemp – playing in an attacking role behind the forwards – got in on the act but once again the goalshot attempt was fielded with relative comfort by the alert Hilton keeper Jacob Kethro.
A minute later it was Thabo Dlamini’s turn to just about wriggle his way through the crowded Hilton College goalmouth but the hungry sharpshooter was dispossessed at the moment critique.
Uncertainty under the sustained Michaelhouse pressure in the attacking third began to reveal itself when Siyanda Mkhize intercepted an errant Hilton College clearance but the Gareth Kemp goalshot was superbly saved by keeper Jacob Kethro diving to his left.
Into minute 21 and Gareth Kemp and Thabo Dlamini both got in (off-target) goalshots before a heavy tackle on Gareth Kemp a minute later earned Michaelhouse a direct free-kick just outside the big box, but the Alex Vermeulen strike flew high and wide.
The neutral scoreline was finally altered soon after, when Michaelhouse’s Kwanele Khumalo threaded his way through the left channel before his layoff was slammed into the Hilton College net by striker Alex Vermeulen to make the score Michaelhouse 1 Hilton 0.
Into the 25th minute and following a wayward Alex Vermeulen goalshot, Hilton took the opportunity to break out fast but their rare attacking move amounted to zero, as Men of House’s back four moved smartly to contain the threat.
Michaelhouse retaliated with back-to-back attacks at the other end that came close to nudging the scoreboard further in their favour.
About 29 minutes gone and finally Hilton garnered a great goalshot opportunity but captain Simi Bhembe blazed his strong strike over the crossbar, which led into halftime, the score reading Michaelhouse 1 (Alex Vermeulen) Hilton College 0.
* One could not help surmising that Men of House might come to regret they didn’t convert at least one more goalshot opportunity into something tangible on the scoreboard, but that would depend on what unfolded in the second half.
Into the second half we went and I don’t know what Hilton College coach Cele Mbanjwa said to his lads but they looked a much-improved outfit. Would it be sustained throughout the half, though? Michaelhouse were certainly not going to give up their lead without a fight.
And as if to underline the Men of House resolve, a crucial intercept by Michaelhouse centre back Luc Pousson stymied a top-quality Hilton attacking sortie out left.
7 minutes into the second half and a beautifully-weighted through-ball ball by Michaelhouse centre midfielder Michael Ross set up Alex Vermeulen but his goalshot brought a fine reflex save from Hilton keeper Jacob Kethro.
After their promising start to the second half, the pressure on the Hilton defence was beginning to build again – a la the first half –and not much more than a minute or two after the Kethro save, it was the pocket Men of House rocket Thabo Dlamini put in the clear… and he coolly picked his spot to jettison Michaelhouse into a 2-0 lead.
A match constant was the Michaelhouse and Hilton supporters cheering, chanting and drum-rolling their first teams on to greater heights as they searched for victory in this annual match in the long history of these two great South African schools.
Well into the second half, Michaelhouse captain and keeper Noah Stanger finally got a meaningful touch on the ball but the Hilton chance was once again lost and the retaliation from deep saw Michaelhouse striker Thabo Dlamini set free with a seemingly sure-fire gold-rush opportunity – only to see his goalshot flash past the wrong side (the right side, from a Hilton perspective) of the far post.
A heavy tackle in midfield on Hilton College captain Simi Bhembe saw a Michaelhouse man yellow-carded and one pondered whether this could be the moment opportune for Hilton to erase the 2-goal deficit?
However, Michaelhouse centre back Nick Crampton again displayed a telling example of the Men of House’s resolve in this intriguing derby – tall and strong – a tower of stability and measured calm – in the heart of the visitors’ defence.
Then when Hilton had a player banished to the sin-bin after a heavy tackle, the visitors’ 2-0 lead in this annual marquee soccer match was already inscribed in the history books for the Men of House.
And so it was; leaving the big crowd satisfied with what they had witnessed as a spectacle, albeit with slightly mixed emotions depending on which side of the N3 your allegiances may lie.
Hilton College 0
1 Jacob Kethro
12 Motheo Makwana
2 Kopano Segoale (vc)
14 Tally Tshekiso
3 Tapiwa Mushonga
6 Suubi Mugerwa-Sekawabe
11 Tanaka Matsa
7 William Raw
9 Wandile Zulu
10 Simi Bhembe (c)
8 Jonathan Tlhagoane
18 Sabelo Moshesh
15 Lwazi Mkatshana
13 Onye Adirika
17 Mamucha Munthali
5 Vuyo Zungu
Head coach Celo Mbanjwa
1 Noah Stanger (c)
3 Luc Pousson
8 Nick Crampton
5 Michael Bradford
6 Mugabi Lubinga
10 Kwanele Khumalo
1 Conor MacColl
7 Gareth Kemp
4 Michael Ross
13 Alexander Vermeulen
9 Thabo Dlamini (vc)
18 Matthew Craigie-Stevenson
14 Hugo Ayo
11 Letlotlo Kebonang
15 Arden Scholtz
12 Siyanda Mkhize
Head coach Ryan van Wyk