AmaTuks continued their unbeaten run in the National First Division (NFD) on 14 February in their Valentine’s Day clash with Mpumalanga Black Aces at Absa Tuks Stadium. Having gone into the summer break at the top of the NFD log, AmaTuks were firm favourites to take all three points against a Black Aces side that was second from the bottom.
Of the two teams, AmaTuks started off better, playing some good football, but neither team created much in the way of chances in the opening 30 minutes. Black Aces created the first scoring chance 36 minutes in but striker Marawaan Bantam’s shot went just wide. Soon after, Black Aces had another chance to take the lead from a free kick, but failed to trouble Siya Mngoma in the AmaTuks goal.
AmaTuks then created a few chances of their own in the closing moments of the first half. First Philani Khwela failed to capitalise on some good play by AmaTuks down the left wing, shooting off target. Then striker Chibuzor Ngwombo placed his effort wide of the goal after a glorious through-ball from Sibusiso Themba. Just before the half time whistle, Sandile Mazibuko missed another great chance, shooting straight at Black Aces goalkeeper, Sherwyn Naiker.
At half time, Steve Barker made a bold move, bringing on Lucky Mzizi off the bench, which changed the game in the second half. Mzizi made an immediate impact, delivering a perfect cross from a corner only for Siya Shoyisa to miss his header in the 49th minute. During the 53rd minute, Mzizi found himself in space on the edge of the Black Aces’s penalty area but miss-cued his shot, sending it high over the bar.
AmaTuks were certainly on top, playing the better football and dominating ball possession. The chances kept coming but the home side’s finishing left a lot to be desired. During the 59th minute, Khwela failed to finish off a great cross from Mzizi completely missing his attempted header. Mzizi then had another shot of his own, this time narrowly missing the bottom corner of the goal. During the 65th minute, AmaTuks missed another clear opportunity after a good one-two passing exchange and through-ball from Khwela, Ngwombo this time the culprit.
AmaTuks were made to pay for their catalogue of misses in the 69th minute when Marawaan Bantam gave Black Aces the lead. After some brilliant passing on the edge of the box, Bantam curled an unerring finish into Mngoma’s top corner. As brilliant as the goal was, it did come against the run of play and soon the familiar pattern of the game continued.
With just over 15 minutes left to play, AmaTuks were in danger of suffering their first defeat of their NFD league campaign. AmaTuks increased the tempo of the game with some good passing and during the 75th minute, Ngwombo missed his header after a good early cross from Khwela. During the 78th minute, Shoyisa was denied at point-blank range by Naiker, who was having a good day in the Black Aces goal. Then during the 82nd minute, AmaTuks were reduced to ten men when Setjhaba Mmuso was sent off.
Two minutes later though, the home side levelled matters with a fantastic individual goal from Junior Sibande. After beating the Black Aces defence with some neat dribbling, Sibande fired an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner to make it 1-1 with a few minutes left to play. Not satisfied with the prospect of taking only one point from the game, AmaTuks went in search of the winner, but were denied during the 89th minute when Mzizi’s quick footwork and well-timed pass gave Ngwombo the chance to win it and he shot straight at Naiker.
The draw was AmaTuks’s 7th of the season and saw them move three points clear of Thanda Royal Zulu to the top of the NFD log. While AmaTuks will be disappointed to have dropped points at home against such lowly opposition, they have now gone unbeaten an impressive 16 games since the start of the season and the quality of the performance suggests AmaTuks are in with a good chance of finally getting promotion to the PSL.
Photo: Kobus Barnard