Cape Town City crashed out of the Caf Confederations Cup after a 2-1 defeat to Mozambique’s Costa do Sol at the Athlone Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It was 2-2 on aggregate, with the Mozambicans qualifying for the next round on away goals.
But that was about it.
The less said about this game, the better. A sporting event this may have been, but it certainly wasn’t football.
In fact, what was on show was a disgrace to the name of football.
It was an ugly, brutal encounter, with lots of niggle and gratuitous fighting among the players and the two benches.
The Ethiopian officials in charge of the match should carry a large shoulder of the blame as they palpably failed to control both sets of players and officials.
The referee, for one, was guilty of some inconsistent decisions, which frustrated the players.
There were regular outbreaks of handbags and scuffles among the teams, while on the bench, City coach Benni McCarthy and the Costa do Sol management duo of Fabio Costas and Arturo Faria had a running battle on the touchline.
There was also an ugly physical scuffle between the two coaches as the teams walked off for the halftime break.
As for the football, Costa do Sol took a 1-0 lead in the second minute.
The Mozambicans were awarded a penalty when Tshepo Gumede handled the ball. Isac Decarvalho struck the spot-kick against the crossbar, and Terence Tisdell headed in the rebound.
City rallied after the setback, with Lyle Lakay forcing a save from Costa do Sol goalkeeper Jose Ventura Guirrugo and Nana Akosah-Bemoah hitting the upright.
The Citizens’ pressure eventually told when teenager Zukile Kewuti levelled the score at 1-1 in the 15th minute.
Right from the start, it was evident that the Mozambicans had come to intimidate. They were physical and often brutal in their tackles.
The game plan was clearly to unsettle the Cape side, to ensure that they never got into any sort of rhythm.
As such, City responded in kind, and the game regenerated into a free-for-all as both teams flew into crazy challenges and tackles.
It was here where referee Belay Tadesse proved to be the main culprit as to why the game got completely out of hand. In short, he had no clue and often his bizarre decisions, for both teams, bordered on being farcical.
He simply had no idea – he even booked the wrong players – and sometimes it appeared as if he had his own rule book, one that surely had nothing to do with actual football guidelines.
But Costa do Sol then took a 2-1 lead seven minutes before the close when Laqene Renha headed in from a corner.
City tried to come back, but to no avail – and the defeat signalled the end of their African adventure.