It went down to a heart-stopping penalty shootout… and it was Maritzburg College first team goalkeeper Thandolwethu Zondi who undid the dreams of St Nicholas with 3 great saves under intense pressure as the RedBlackWhite clinched the match 3-1.
This MTN 2nd Term League U19A division semi-final ended 0-0 at full-time but the bare scoreline didn’t reflect how much action took place in each goalmouth.
Featured image: Maritzburg College first team soccer goalkeeper Thandolwethu Zondi was the semi-final matchwinner.
Tuesday afternoon’s humdinger took place at the AB Jackson soccer fields in Princess Margaret Drive, opposite Harry Gwala Stadium, home of Maritzburg United.
Diagonal neighbours across College Road/West Street, St Nicholas ended third in the league phase of the competition with Maritzburg College in second place.
An error not to be made is to look at a school like St Nicholas and compare on the usual rugby cricket etc. basis to Maritzburg College. Soccer throws conventional Maritzburg College team sports codes rivalry completely out of the window.
With the passion on the sidelines palpable, it was Maritzburg College who started the first half well, with RedBlackWhite forward Tariq Whiteman instrumental in a number of the dangerous moves.
The desire on the part of both teams to win this one was immediately evident in the hotly-contested nature of every challenge… there was no holding back, and the referee had to chat with the players from both sides more than once in the early stages.
St Nicholas were playing directly into the sun and it wasn’t an easy task for their goalkeeper to negotiate the high ball, and one suspected that the setting sun would be even harder on Maritzburg College keeper Zondi in the second half.
There was activity in both goalmouths in the first half but not quite on the scale of the second-half thrills and spills.
The St Nicholas coach was in animated conversation with his boys during the halftime break.
From his body language there was no doubt that the central message was to pepper Maritzburg College keeper Zondi with high balls after the changeover.
And so it soon was. The second of two second-half high balls into the Maritzburg College six-yard box were hugely troubling for RedBlackWhite keeper Zondi and St Nicholas managed to steer the ball towards the goalline only for a Maritzburg College defender to make a goal-saving clearance off the line!
Here’s the rest of this pulsating semi-final in real time, as Jono saw it.
It’s all St Nicholas as two goalshot possibilities come and go before Maritzburg College have a similar opportunity at the other end. Having just said that… a great goalshot from St Nicholas… Just past the post.
Consternation in the St Nicholas goalmouth shortly after. It’s end-to-end non-stop stuff!
Maritzburg College make their third substitution – this time enforced. And the new sub has a great chance from a curling cross from the right but his goalshot is parried by the St Nicholas keeper!
The St Nicholas coach is perpetual motion – in body and word – as he paces up and down like a caged lion…
A curling Tariq Whiteman free-kick into the goalmouth just evades a team-mate’s opportunity to head the ball into the St Nicholas net. At the other end a long-range St Nicholas direct free-kick curls past the wrong side of the near post.
Definitely a good spell being enjoyed by Maritzburg College in the last few minutes, but at the other end St Nicholas have a goalshot opportunity that doesn’t come off.
The protests at certain referee decisions are drawing increasing shouts of complaint from one side of the halfway line… Excellent defence from Maritzburg College as St Nicholas pile on the pressure.
Well, the best chance of the match so far… But the St Nicholas striker shoots wide of the far post with time on his side…
A direct Maritzburg College free-kick curves comfortably over the St Nicholas crossbar.
As much as there have been plenty of opportunities in both goalmouths one senses that this MTN 2nd Term League tournament’s first semi-final in the U19A division could be heading to penalties.
The referee is dishing out cards as the pressure to break the deadlock mounts. And a free-kick culminates in a St Nicholas defender clearing the ball off his goalline! Hardly a minute later, a Maritzburg College header is not far off the mark.
And the ref has had enough… A St Nicholas player gets a red card. St Nicholas down to 10 men for the rest of the match.
Aaaaaa-aaand that’s full-time!
Maritzburg College 0
St Nicholas 0
Straight to penalties after a brief break.
THE PENALTY SHOOTOUT SEQUENCE
St Nicholas first…
A brilliant save low to his left by Maritzburg College keeper Thandolwethu Zondi!
And the Maritzburg College captain and midfielder Lwazi Zondi slots his penalty coolly into the net!
The St Nicholas second penalty… it’s inch-perfect.
The Maritzburg College second penalty… Is in!!!
After 2 rounds
Maritzburg College 2
St Nicholas 1
Into the third round… And yet another superb save by the Maritzburg College keeper!
And the Maritzburg College penalty? – It’s perfect!
3 rounds gone
Maritzburg College 3
St Nicholas 1
It’s make-or-break time for St Nicholas… If they don’t score with their fourth penalty it’s all over.
And the Maritzburg College keeper Zondi makes yet another stu-uu-uuuning save!!!!
It’s all over!!!!
As the RedBlackWhite supporters cheer at full volume, goalkeeper Zondi’s team-mates rush from the halfway line to congratulate their heroic shot-stopper, thinking the game is over.
The linesman rules a keeper infringement…hazarding a guess, I think the keeper was adjudged to have advanced off his goalline towards the penalty-taker before he’d launched his goalshot…
St Nicholas get another chance… It must go in…
But the replayed St Nicholas penalty hits the post!
It’s GAME OVA-AAA!!!
Maritzburg College win the penalty shootout 3-1 and advance to the MTN 2nd Term League U19A Cup final, which takes place at the AB Jackson at 3.30pm next Tuesday, 11 June.
Well played St Nicholas… it’s a pity there couldn’t have been two winners.
Here’s Maritzburg College head coach Daniel Haswell’s thoughts on this pusating semi-final contest.
The second semi-final saw 2018 champions Haythorne, fourth in the league phase of the competition, face Carter, who ended first in the league.
And it was Haythorne who prevailed 1-0 through a B. Zondi goal in what was a typically hard-fought cup tie.
So it sets up a repeat of last year’s final, in which Haythorne beat Maritzburg College in an excruciatingly tense penalty shootout.
See you at the AB Jackson next Tuesday at 3.30pm!
* The tournament is administered by the PMB High Schools Football Association.