A huge home crowd attended the game, knowing that whatever the outcome, AmaTuks would lift the National First Division (NFD) trophy after the match had concluded. On the other hand, Thanda Royal Zulu had to win in Pretoria and hope Blackburn Rovers failed to win at home to relegation-threatened Bay United to secure a play-off spot for next season’s Premier Soccer League (PSL).
Amatuks got the game underway in Pretoria to the sound of vuvuzelas and the chants of an excited crowd. Thanda Royal Zulu were the first to threaten with two shots at captain Siya Mngoma’s goal in the first seven minutes of the game. Thanda dominated the early exchanges with AmaTuks looking to play on the counter attack. In the 16th minute AmaTuks’s top scorer, Thokozani Sekotlong, went close after he hit a free-kick past the wall and inches wide of the Thanda goal. The rest of the half saw missed chances paired with sloppy finishing as both teams seemed failed to capitalize on their opponent’s weaknesses.
The second half started much like the first, with both teams pressing forward in search of a goal opportunity.
Both teams were moving the ball around well, troubling each other’s defences constantly. A draw looked inevitable, before Thanda’s striker Peter Nwadike headed the ball past Mngoma in the 74th minute. Some lacklustre defending and good play around the left wing led to the big man scoring. The goal seemed to wake a lacklustre AmaTuks , who in turn dominated the last 15 minutes of the game, but failed to score.
The final whistle from the referee sparked wild celebrations from both teams, as Thanda heard news that Blackburn rovers had lost, granting them a play-off spot.
AmaTuks finished the season with 55 points, 4 points ahead of second placed Chippa United and 5 ahead of Thanda Royal Zulu. Chippa and Thanda will face each other and Santos FC to determine who will join AmaTuks in the PSL next season.
AmaTuks finished the 30-game season with 15 wins, 10 draws and five losses scoring 45 goals in the process.
“I am looking forward to the PSL and I am confident that we will keep hold of all our big players,” said AmaTuks coach Steve Barker after the game. AmaTuks will see it as essential to keep the squad together going into the PSL, but this will be a difficult task with some players attracting attention from big name clubs like Kaizer Chiefs.
AmaTuks will now enjoy a well-deserved rest before the PSL season starts in August this year.
Photos by Jaco Joubert
Go to publisher's site: http://www.perdeby.co.za/amatuks-stumble-but-still-lift-nfd-trophy/