UMLAZI – University Sport South Africa (USSA) select team produced a commanding performance as they claimed the 2018 SAB League Under-21 National Championship with a 2-1 win over Mpumalanga on Sunday.
Despite the loss, Mpumalanga came into this tournament as one of the underdogs, as their last top-spot finish was in 2015 after losing in the finals against Free State.
However, their inferiority status never came into light in the group of death – Group A – where they were up against hosts KwaZulu-Natal and 2017 champions Gauteng.
The team from Nelspruit held their own as they beat Gauteng in their third match of the group stages, followed by the biggest upset of the tournament as they knocked out the hosts.
Not only were they outclassing the big guns out of the way but they did so in style, with a potent attack that was led by Vusi ‘Lukaku’ Nkambule and Sandile Mabuye.
But here, Nkambule and Mabuye succumbed against the organised USSA defence marshalled by the lanky Siphamandla Sosibo.
It was always going to be interesting how the game would pan out as the tournament’s best attack was up against the best defence – Mpumalnga had scored 16 goals in five, while USSA had just conceded once before the start of the game.
USSA, contesting in their third successive final, looked the more dangerous of the two teams.
Nkasana More was causing all sorts of problems for the opponents with his quick and trickery feet down the left wing, but his finishing left a lot to be desired for.
Thembinkosi Gwala bossed midfield with his neat and penetrative pass into the opposition’s half, but striker Kavendre Makhene failed to convert on a number of clear chances.
Gwala, a Durban University of Technology (DUT) student, is not the fasted of players in the park but he makes up for that in his quick and constructive passes.
The 21-year-old’s passes would eventually pay off as he picked up Makhene in the box, whom calmly controlled the ball, before laying off for Thabang Chuene to place a low drive shot past Bonginkosi Nkosi.
That was the turnaround Makhene needed, as he would get his team’s second of the game after cleverly beating the offside trap.
Mpumalanga would eventually get their consolation through Khulekani Masemola whom successfully challenged for the ball against on-rushing goalkeeper Mlungwana Nqubelo and thus putting the ball in an empty net.
Meanwhile, Gauteng hammered Limpopo by 7-1 in the third-fourth place finish in the first match of the day.