Andries Ndlovu & Kupakwashe Kambasha
The University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) football team faces uncertainty in securing a semi-final spot in the Varsity cup following a Thursday night home defeat to North-West University (NWU).
UJ had all the support they needed, as fans could be heard chanting songs for the team from the stands. But that was not used as an advantage by the men in orange since they were hammered 3-0 in an encounter that favoured the visitors, NWU.
Commenting on the UJ performance, Coach Mandla Zwane acknowledged the deficient performance by his boys. “We lacked energy in all departments”, Zwane told The Open Journal.
From a more tactical perspective, a change to the UJ starting line-up could have resulted in the loss. UJ’s regular centre back Given Msimango was out “because of Flu” according to Zwane.
On the other hand, a restructured NWU team showed true character in scooping the 3 points following the two consecutive losses in the previous matches. Asked about changes in the starting line-up, NWU head coach Amos Xaba told The Open Journal that an injury and a needed game time opportunity forced him to introduce fresh faces.
The visitors (NWU) were too comfortable on the ball, closing all spaces for the home side and forcing them to play long balls instead of their regular short passing game. Xaba later revealed the message he passed onto his boys.
NWU forward, Cameron Chweu emphasised that the message from the coach was taken into consideration. “We played as a team, and it was not about individual play”, said Chweu. Goals from Cameron Chweu (two) and Sandile Mabtha (one) were enough to earn the visitors three points during the night.
Thursday’s victory saw NWU moving to a third place with 10 points on the log, just one atop UJ who remain stagnant at 9 points. The Mafikeng based outfit will now look forward to cementing their position to move onto the next stage of the tournament.
The chances of a semi-final spot for UJ have narrowed since the log table places them out of the top four, in position five. The teams behind UJ are so close that the Joburg based side will have to win their last match next week against UWC and depend on negative results for teams such as UP’s Tukkies and UWC who have 2 and 1 games in hand respectively.
“The chances of top four are there but we still have to fight until the last day, the last fixture will determine everything”, Zwane commented on the top four issues.
Out of the eight teams participating in the tournament, only the top four progress to the next stage that follows a knock out format. The winners of the semifinals meet in the final match where one must emerge victorious to claim the championship.