Edgar Manaka of Polokwane City challenged by Tandai Ndoro of Highlands Park during their MTN8 2019 semi-final first leg. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Polokwane City and Highlands Park have it all to do in the second leg of the MTN8 semi-final on September 17, after playing to an uninspiring first leg draw at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday.  

Both teams will look at the goalless draw as an advantage.

City will be proud that they denied Highlands an away goal, while the Lions of the North will be confident going into Makhulong Stadium knowing that they have a blank paper on which to paint a masterpiece

They will look to continue their impressive rise from playing in the first division two seasons ago to being 90 minutes away from an appearance in a cup final.

Rise and Shine, however, played with one eye on the return leg in Tembisa by opting to start Jabu Maluleke on the bench.

The 37-year-old refuses to age, maturing like fine wine as he keeps getting better as the years roll on.

But his legs need to be managed, which is what coach Zlatko Krmpotic did by starting with him on the bench and giving the armband to Sibusiso Mbonambi.

Polokwane struggled to dictate terms without their talisman.

Highlands pinned them back in search of a crucial away goal.

Cyril Chibwe, in goal for the hosts, was called into action early into the match.

He looked rattled with butter fingers that saw the Lions of the North gain confidence.

But instead of putting pressure on him, Highlands eased up and allowed Rise and Shine back into the match.

Both teams played with a lot of caution, not wanting to be caught with their pants down before the decisive second leg.

This resulted in a dull affair that failed to live up to the expectation as both teams are on the verge of appearing in the final of the most lucrative knockout competition in the country

The fans who made it to the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium had to find other forms of entertainment, like singing their hearts out in search of something spectacular.

Krmpotic brought on Maluleke just before the hour mark in search of inspiration.

Highlands responded by bringing in former Rise and Shine striker Rodney Ramagalela for Tendai Ndoro.

Ramagalela left City in controversial fashion after he decided to sign a pre-contract with Highlands.

Polokwane reacted by freezing him, allegedly preventing him from training with the team.

Just as he regained his fitness after spending six months twiddling his thumbs, he suffered the loss of his daughter, which put him out of action briefly while he was on compassionate leave.

Ramagalela almost made them pay by bulldozing his way into his former team’s box, creating something out of nothing.

Chibwe pulled off a brilliant save to keep a clean-sheet.

City finished the match the stronger side, and they will be buzzing when they visit Highlands with a place in the final up for grabs.

Maluleka is likely to start that match.

Once he was on the pitch on Saturday, he showed his magical touch with a well-taken free kick that almost caught Thela Ngobeni off guard.

Rise and Shine found themselves and had a sense of purpose in their attack. 

The second leg will be a more open affair as its do-or-die, in keeping with the tournament’s Wafa Wafa motto.

IOL Sport

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