Wits lift silverware in Soccer City opener

24 May 2010

President Jacob Zuma officially opened Soccer City, South Africa’s flagship 2010 Fifa World Cup venue, as Bidvest Wits and AmaZulu met in the final of the R19.3-million Nedbank Cup on Saturday. When it was all over, the Students had aced their exam!

A 3-0 victory gave Wits their first trophy since the 1995 Coca-Cola Cup. For AmaZulu, who last won silverware in 1992, the wait still goes on.

With a total prize purse of R19.3-million, including R6-million for the winners, R2.5-million for the runners-up and R1-million for the losing semi-finalists, the Nedbank Cup is the most lucrative domestic soccer competition in Africa.

The stadium, rocking to the cheers of 72 000 fans despite the absence of any of South Africa’s glamour clubs in the final, was widely praised.

‘Wonderful’

Zuma told the SABC: “The opening of this stadium is absolutely hair-raising, and it is wonderful to see South African flags being hoisted high by people here who are celebrating.”

Both coaches, Roger De Sa of Bidvest Wits and Neil Tovey of AmaZulu said the playing surface was excellent. The venue will play host to both the opening and final matches of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

The opening half was somewhat scrappy on Saturday, but the second half saw a superb battle, with AmaZulu putting the pressure on Wits initially before the Clever Boys hit them with three late sucker-punches, including two goals in injury time.

Man of the match

Man of the match Michael Morton kept the Wits defence solid and the Usuthu’s strikers under control as, despite the Durban club effectively managing to move the ball up to their forwards, especially in the second period, they were denied good openings on goal.

Wits dictated matters in the first half and dominated possession. AmaZulu, however managed a good number of shots on goal without really troubling Wits’ goalkeeper Francis Chansa.

Veteran Marawaan Bantam got in an early shot for the Students, but it was blocked. Bantam then picked out Sifiso Vilakazi with a free kick. Vilakazi was in space and got in a good shot on goal, but goalkeeper Nicolas Gindre was up to the challenge.

Sadly for Bantam, he was later forced to leave the field due to an injury.

Yellow cards

A measure of the pressure that AmaZulu were under was shown in the awarding of three yellow cards in the first half. Certainly Wits’ coach Roger De Sa wasn’t happy as he could be seen flapping his arms and remonstrating with a linesman about the Usuthu’s robust tackling.

In the second half, Vilakazi had a chance to put Wits ahead, but was wide of the mark with his shot.

Using the flanks better, and attacking with more speed, AmaZulu managed to put Dumisani Ngwenya in for a shot, but he fired across the face of goal.

Wits’ keeper Chansa was then forced to palm another effort from Ngwenya over his crossbar.

Stalemate broken

With 13 minutes to play, the stalemate was finally broken with, ironically, the injured Bantam’s replacement Fabricio Rodrigues striking for Wits.

Sipho Mngomezulu set up the goal with a sublime cross from the right to the far post. Goalkeeper Gindre was caught out of position and couldn’t scramble across in time to stop Rodrigues side-footing the ball into the beckoning net.

In the second minute of injury time Sifiso Vilakazi made sure of the win for the Students. Picking up the ball in space on the left, he charged forward, took the ball onto his left foot just inside the area and then beat Gindre with a sweet shot into the far corner.

Cherry on the top

The cherry on the top came two minutes later when Sifiso Myeni played in Vilakazi with a superb ball between the AmaZulu central defenders that put Vilakazi in the clear. He beat goalkeeper Gindre in a one-on-one by pulling the ball to his left and wrong-footed Usuthu captain Pere Ariweriyai with his shot into an empty net.

It was a happy ending to the season for Wits, who had finished a place below AmaZulu, in tenth, in the PSL.

For AmaZulu, it was bitter pill to swallow. They had been favourites going into the match and had shown excellent Cup form throughout the season, earlier reaching two semi-finals. Sadly for the Usuthu, it wasn’t a case of third time lucky.

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