MADRID – Golden Arrows began their Spanish tour with a 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano on Monday.
Although the South Africans were forced to chase the game for the better part of the outing, a brace from second half substitute Nkosikhona Dube ensured that Arrows finished the match victorious.
Abafana Bes'thende had a major boost before kick-off as striker Nduduzo Sibiya and defender Velemseni joined that rest of the squad.
The duo missed the initial team flight as they were on senior team duty. As such, they didn't feature in Monday's encounter due to jet-lag.
The game started a bit later than scheduled as the home team failed to arrive in time, thus delaying play by five minutes.
Building up to this encounter, Vusumuzi Vilakazi said he'll opt for his usual game-plan due to the little knowledge he has about Vallecano. He therefore decided to start with his regular team.
Abafana Bes'thende dominated play earlier on, had too much of the ball, thus making passes in their own third. It was team captain Nkosinathi Sibisi who was responsible for this strategy.
The 22-year-old is used to competing against European teams, while he was also an integral part of Arrows' first trip to Holland in their maiden season.
However, one can argue the difference in style of play between the two countries.
With both teams starting to find their rhythm in the game, Abafana Bes'thende were gradually becoming confident on the ball. They controlled possession, made neat passes but failed to finish off and trouble goalkeeper Elias.
Just like our own ball game, the Spaniards are a team that's disciplined on the ball, patient with build-up play but quick on attack.
Vallecano would be the first team to find a gap that nearly became the opening score of the match.
Talisman Sergio got at the end of beautiful delivery from the right flank, fired off a glancing header towards Sherwyn Naicker but the Arrows' shot-stopper pulled off a stunning save, in the process giving away the corner.
Naicker would be finally be beaten later on by Sergio. The striker was found unmarked inside Abafana Bes'thende box and rattled the roof of the net after some beautiful build-up play down the right wing.
Yusuf Jappie’s flair, skill and ability to slow the ball was exactly what Arrows needed in a game of this magnitude.
Arrows had a number of scoring opportunities early into the second half but like before, they failed to convert. However, the MDC champions would eventually find their breakthrough via Dube.
Sibusiso Sibeko teamed up with Dube, who controlled the ball inside Vallecano's box before placing it inside Elias' far post.
After that, it was all Arrows and the resilience of new man 'Tower' would put Arrows in control.
The lanky striker pressed down his marker, forcing him into a mistake before unleashing a shot that was saved by Elias but the shot-stopper deflected the ball back to an unmarked Dube who calmly finished off for his second of the game.