By CHRIS TOTOBELA
All roads led to JD Dlephu stadium on New Year’s Eve, where the final of the 2018 edition of the New Year’s Cup took place.
In the third- and fourth-place play-off, Zwide Pirates beat Manyora by a single goal – which was an own goal. Zwide Pirates took home R25 000 while Manyora went home with R20 000.
In the main game, underdogs Grahamstown United faced overwhelming favourites Addo Academy in front of a packed stadium. The game started at a very high pace with both teams attacking each other and missing early chances.
The home side settled down much quicker than their opponents and started stringing a lot of passes together forcing their opponents to foul them constantly.
Addo Academy tried to fight back, but could not match the great midfield prowess of their opponents. In the 22nd minute of the game, the home side took the lead after a great move that started in the middle of the park and was expertly finished by Lingelethu Gcwabe who wrong footed the keeper and forced him to watch as the ball sailed into the net. The stadium erupted with loud cheers.
Academy tried to fight their way back into the game but failed to convert the chances they created. Six and a half minutes later after conceeding they were caught ball-watching at the back after a well delivered corner kick found Thamsanqa Gwabeni unmarked and he steered the ball home with his head.
Academy seemed confused after the second goal and struggled to put a few passes together.
The referee stole the show with less than 10 minutes left in the first half when he made a decision that could have been a game changing one when he sent off a Grahamstown United player after a 50/50 ball. The home side went to the break one man short.
In the second half, Academy started pushing forward searching for a goal, but United’s defence stood firm.
Academy finally reduced the deficit after a controversial goal that got the fans talking.
The referee awarded a free kick to Academy just outside the box. He ordered the United players to move back to the required distance – and as he was doing that, Academy took a quick free kick that found Siyabulela Ngqina unmarked and curled it into the net while United players were still busy listening to the referee.
United players’ protests fell into deaf ears.
Academy piled on the pressure and forced United to defend, but the defence managed to hold on until the final whistle.
It was really a good football game, an advert for Eastern Cape’s talent marred by very poor officiating.
Grahamstown United’s captain, who was also named as the man of the match, Luthando Booi, said after the game, “It was a tough game but we listened to the coach’s instructions. I am happy that we managed to keep the trophy here at home despite of all what we went through in this game,” said Booi.
United’s coach Nkosinathi “Reason” Fountain said, “We knew what we were up against and we prepared very well for them and tactically we were much better than them. I am happy that we represented Makhanda so well and did not disappoint the huge crowd that came here today.
“The only thing that killed our spirit is the referee. I mean it was there for everyone to see… it was bad. I would like to promise the people of Makhanda that we will try our best to defend this trophy in 2019,” said Fountain who walked away with the coach of the tournament award.
Goalkeeper of the tournament went to Aphiwe Fezi, while Simnikiwe Mbonde was voted as the NYC 2018 future star. Both from Addo Academy.
The player of the tournament award went to Lizo Norhutshu of Grahamstown United.
Addo Academy coach Simphiwe Kleinbooi was devastated after the game and said, “The game was good and tough but our opponents had a very good game plan and they kept our danger man quiet through out the game. But I am very disappointed with the officiating. This game deserved a better referee. We will come back again next year and try and rectify all the mistakes we have done in this final.”
Grahamstown United walked away with the grand prize of R100 000, a trophy and gold medals while Addo Academy got the consolation prize of R50 000 and silver medals.
NEW YEAR’S CUP FINAL 2018 – GRAHAMSTOWN UNITED 2 – ADDO ACADEMY 1