By CHRIS TOTOBELA
A huge crowd braved the scorching sun and made their way to JD Dlepu stadium on Saturday.
On show was the SAB regional league encounter between local debutants Jacaranda Aces and former ABC Motsepe League Alexandria-based Manchester United.
The game started at a well-managed, pedestrian pace, with both teams being very cautious. The heat also played an influential role in this game, but the visitors began picking up the pace and strung together a couple of passes and seemed to be in control of the proceedings.
The first chance of the game fell on Manchester’s central forward, who only had a keeper to beat but fired a tame shot straight to the hands of the goalie. Aces struggled to put together a few passes and gave away the ball too cheaply on numerous occasions.
Aces’ best chance of the half came after a corner kick when a header destined for goals was cleared on the goal line by the visitors’ defence. The home side’s defence was caught napping when a deflected shot fell on the foot of United’s striker, who made no mistake this time and slotted the ball home to give his team the lead.
Aces, who defended too deep for most of the half, got a glorious opportunity to level matters when they were awarded a spot-kick after a United defender handled the ball inside the penalty area.
Aces’ penalty taker shot straight at the keeper, who made a brilliant one-handed save. The home side went to the break, trailing by one goal.
Both teams made a few changes in the second half, but the visitors still looked very dominant in midfield, and it was not a surprise when they doubled their advantage after a well-taken long-range shot that left the keeper for dead.
Aces preferred long route style of play seemed not to be working as the opposition defence dealt well with these high balls. United caught Aces on the break, making use of their pacey right wing, who delivered a good cross which was easily tapped home by an unmarked United’s forward to make it 3-0.
Aces seemed to run out of ideas and rushed their build-ups. They were awarded another spot-kick with a few minutes left on the game and made no mistake this time. They tried to put more pressure on the visitors and nearly scored a second goal when their substitute strike ran on the well-placed through pass but shot narrowly over the crossbar. The referee blew the final whistle and put Aces out of their misery.
Aces had themselves to blame for this loss, and it was not the first time they allowed opponents to dictate the game. Aces need to get a confident playmaker who will spread around the passes, help the team play with confidence, and keep the ball. They need one or two central midfielders who can read the game very well and can dictate matters and boss that midfield.
Secondly, they need to start with their more influential players and not use them as impact players. At this level, you start with your best players and not save them for last. Hopefully, Aces have learnt their lesson and will come back stronger and better. It was a disappointment for the substantial home crowd but not the end of the world.