Highlands Park advanced to the last 16 of this year’s edition of the Nedbank Cup in style at home to GladAfrica Championship outfit Uthongathi FC at a wet Balfour Park Stadium. on Saturday night.
The match got off to a murky start following heavy rainfall hours prior to kick-off. The Lions entered the pitch with a return from Wayde Jooste into the starting eleven while Letsholonyane got his rare starts into the team. The visitors came to make one of the tournament’s upsets, taking the match to the visitors.
The hosts nearly found the opener through Yeye Letsholonyane but his effort went wide off the post. As the match progressed, Highlands found the opener minutes before the half hour mark through a goal from Peter Shalulile who netted home after a blunder at the back heading into the half with a slender lead.
In the second half, the visitors were once again looking to find an equaliser and made the first change of the game fielding former Orlando Pirates midfielder Issa Sarr. The change looked to yield results as the visitors were on the offensive and came close to a goal but keeper Marlon Heugh was up to task to keep the hosts in the lead.
The Lions made their first change of the match ad introduced debutant Musa Nyatama into the mix of things, while Lindokuhle Mbatha was fielded for returnee Jooste. Shalulile found his second of the night when side footed a Lindo Mbatha cross into the net to solidify the hosts lead.
In the latter stages the visitors attempted to fight back but it was sealed victory for Da Gama’s men who managed to advance to the last sixteen of the competition.
Highlands coach Owen Da Gama says what’s most important was the win and that it wasn’t really much about the cup but the confidence for the players and turning the corner. ‘’ The important thing is that the win was there, it’s not about the cup but confidence for the players, turning the corner and we were motivated by one of the commentators who said that Balfour Park Stadium. would be where the surprise would come with Uthongathi it actually motivated us but people mustn’t undermine us, they can do that on their own peril “.
Da Gama says he’s encouraged by the progress that the team is making and that the hard work by the boys is starting to pay off.
Starting XI: Heugh, Mokoena, Mbunjana, Fransman, Banda, Jooste, Ramoraka, Mogaila, Shalulile, Letsholonyane, Motsepe.
Subs: Kapini, Mbhele, Mbatha, Mkhabela, Makhaula, Nyatama, Motlafi.