New kids on the block impress at Premier Cup

MZOXOLO BUDAZA

Tournament newcomers, Atlantic Nacional, lost 3-1 to Ikapa Sporting in an exciting quarter-final match on Sunday.

Should Nacional have won the match, the fans would have been treated to the repeat of the under-17 Knockout Challenge final, which took place in Parow last year, where Ajax’s under-17s won 2-1.

In their match against Ikapa, Nacional started off well and looked composed. In fact, the two sides proved to be highly energetic in the early stages. They went to the half-time break with the scores at 1-1.The game’s turning point came late in the second half. With the score at 1-1 and penalties looming, Nacional coach Keith Paulse substituted goalkeeper Mikhail Dankers with Shaheen Abrahams, who is regarded as a better penalty stopper. Ikapa exploited that situation and took the game to Nacional’s third of the field. That paid off as they scored two quick goals in the dying minutes of the encounter, to win 3-1.

Paulse said lapses in concentration at the crucial stage of the match proved to be their downfall. He was, however, quick to note that his side did well in the competition, especially considering that this was their first time in the Premier Cup.

“We have taken a lot of positives from this year’s competition. We now know that discipline is important because if you make one mistake your opponents will punish you. That’s what happened today. “Having said that, however, the experience the boys gained here is invaluable,” he said.

Nacional did, indeed, play some of the most exciting football in this year’s competition. Their strong and skilful players proved a handful for the opposition. They were also responsible for the downfall of the defending champions, Glendene United, beating them 2-0 in the quarter-finals.

Nacional qualified for the knockout stages after finishing second in Group D behind Bidvest Wits. They collected six points in the process, after winning two and losing one of their three group matches. They started off on a high note, beating fellow rookies Mighty United, from Khayelitsha 3-2. They went on to beat 2012 Champions Chippa United 3-1 in their second match before going down to Wits.

However, they had already done enough to book their spot in the last 16, where they came face-to-face with last year’s winners, Glendene.

The Table View side showed very little respect for the champions as they ran riot over them. They scored a goal in each half to kick the champions out of the competition, before going down to Ikapa in the quarter finals.

“All the teams proved to be well organised and no one wanted to leave the competition empty-handed. That meant we had to be extra-careful in our planning. To be honest, as a new team in this competition we didn’t really expect to go this far, said Nacional captain, Ryan Baartman.

“We just wanted to go past the group stages and take each game as it came. The journey was long and we did well considering the circumstances,” he said.