Nacional throw kitchen sink at under-19 tourney

Atlantic Nacionals Franklin Muller tussles for the ball during his sides match against JL Zwane.

Last year’s Bayhill under-19 Premier Cup quarter-finalists , Atlantic Nacional had a tough time this year as they bowed out in the group stages of the competition, at Erica Park in Belhar, at the weekend.

They were, however, able to pull together some wins to make it to the plate section finals, where they came up against Vasco da Gama, who went unbeaten in the competition but also somehow found themselves knocked out in the group stages on goal difference. Atlantic were unable to string it all together in that final and went down 3-0 to their Parow-based opposition.

A lot was expected from Nacional this year, especially considering the fact that they had a decent run in the qualifiers, having finished second in Group B behind Fish Hoek.

They collected five points after winning one and drawing two in a tough group that also included 2015 runners up, JL Zwane as well as Hanover Park United.

The side, in fact, made a name for themselves in last year’s competition when, as complete unknowns, they stunned the then-defending champions Glendene United, kicking them out with a 2-0 scoreline.

They qualified for the last 16 after finishing second in a tough Group C behind Bidvest Wits. What made that qualification even more special for them was the fact that they qualified at the expense of 2013 Champions Chippa United.

However, things proved to be different in this year’s edition as the competition was tougher.

They found themselves slotted in Group G alongside Manenberg’s D&G Orient, JL Zwane and Bloemfontein Celtic. Besides the newcomers Orient, who were a closed book going to this competition, the other two sides have had decent performances in this competition in the past. And, the going proved tough for the Nacional side.

They didn’t have an ideal start to the competition, going down 2-1 against Orient in their opener on Wednesday April 12, and that meant they had to play catch up. But, to their credit, the side redeemed themselves to record a well-deserved goalless draw against Bloemfontein Celtic, the following day. Nacional reserved their best performance of the competition for their last group match against JL Zwane.

Goals from Zaid Davids and Wonga Mokeyane saw Nacional recording a 2-0 win over the Gugulethu side. That, however, was not enough to see them through to the last 16.

Meanwhile, Ajax, who have won the tournament six times and lost in the final of last year’s spectacle after going down 1-0 to Supersport United, were among the favourites to lift this year’s trophy.

But, to their fans’ disappointment, they bowed out in the last 16, losing 3-1 to an inspired PPG Langa side in a dramatic penalty shootout. In what proved to be arguably the best game of the tournament, Ajax came face to face with a team that proved, over the years, to be their nemesis side in this competition.

The sides went to extra time and, in a dramatic turn of events, reigning Safa-Cape Town referee of the year, Akhona Ndzingo, showed Ajax’s Sirgio Kimmies a red card, following a reckless tackle from behind.

The Langa side pushed men forward but Ajax launched attacks of their own. The match had to be decided on penalties after none of the two sides could break the deadlock.

The penalties themselves were tense and Ajax’s Luke Vester was the first to take a spot kick. The youngster made no mistake, making it 1-0 for his side. Awonke Mlanjeni converted PPG’s first spot kick to make it 1-all. The pressure was now on Ajax’s Jay-Dee Adams. The youngster looked casual and that proved suicidal as he missed the target.

It was, by then, PPG’s chance to take the advantage. And, they did exactly that, with Buzwe Bam making it 2-1. Ajax, at that point, had to score their next spot kick to keep them in the game but PPG goalie, Kwanele Gongxeka, had other ideas, saving Bonga Dladla’s penalty.

And, to make matters more difficult for them, Samkelo Mkiva scored PPG’s third goal. A save by Gongxeka against Ajax’s next spot kick would take PPG to the quarters, and he did exactly that, denying Ajax golden boy, Sonwabile Mfecane.

In the cup final, defending champions Supersport United went toe-to-toe with fellow Pretoria-based side Mamelodi Sundowns. Supersport thundered to victory, scoring four goals against Sundowns’ two.