Coke Cup reaches business end

MZOXOLO BUDAZA

Things were even hotter on Sunday July 10 – both in terms of the weather and the action on the field – as 64 teams, in senior and under-18 divisions, did battle for a place in the last 32.

Mandela Park, Bonteheuwel, The Greens and Strandfontein were the venues and, as has been the case in the past, the under-18 youngsters played with energy and flair that kept the fans on their toes.

Games were tightly contested and some of the favourites sent out a clear message with convincing results.

Defending champions Masidlale Academy showed, once again, why they are the team to beat.

The Nyanga side, displaying their trademark attacking brand of football, were in good shape this weekend and showed just why they are among the best sides in this age group.

Playing with the consistency that has characterised their football in the past few years, the Nyanga side booked their spot in the next round after overcoming Heideveld LFA’s Everton 4-0.

Masi, also champions, in 2012, and runners up, in 2014, won last year’s competition in a spectacular fashion beating Bonteheuwel’s Sporting United 4-0 in the final at Athlone Stadium.

That was their third final in four years, making them one of the most experienced in this competition.

It also showed that they knew how to win when it mattered most.

Founder, Thanduxolo Ncwadi, said there were a number of reasons behind the teams’ consistent performances.

First, he said, the fact that they were champions in the past meant that the new generation of players they have promoted from the under-15 side were eager to emulate the 2012 and 2015 winning teams.

“Also,” he said, “the fact that we are defending champions and, consequently, a team to beat, motivated our players do well.

“They take each game seriously because they know that beating Masidlale would be a huge achievement for other teams.

So, they know the importance of protecting that Masi reputation,” he said.

Ncwadi said going through to the last round of 32 meant a lot to them.

This, he said, was because the early stages of the competition were more demanding, especially in terms of the players concentration levels.

“The players now know we are closer to our goal and, as has been the case over the years, we are at our most dangerous at these stages of the competition,” he said.

Meanwhile, fellow favourites Milano United United proved too good for Cape District side Salt River Blackpool, winning 4-0 to book their spot in the next round.

If that clinical performance is anything to go by, the Grassy Park side is going to be hard to beat going forward in this competition.

In other action, Chukker Road-based Glendene United had to work even harder in their match against an unpredictable Lucky Stars from Gugulethu.

The Gugs side ran riot over their more fancied opponents, scoring the first goal of the match. The side, however, couldn’t hold on to that lead as Glendene’s experience started to show. They went on to win 3-2, kicking Stars out of the competition.

Another Cape District side, Santos, found the going even tougher when they took on Hellenic, also in Strandfontein.

A lot was expected from the People’s Team but they found Hellenic, also among favourites, in an uncompromising mood.

The Greek Gods went on to win 5-0, leaving Santos players kicking their heels after another defeat in the early stages of the competition.

In what proved to be one of the toughest matches in the round. Old Mutual Academy overcame Ikapa Sporting 5-4 to advance to the next round.

The sides were evenly matched in all departments and the score-line is a true reflection of what went down as neither really dominated the other.