Golden Arrows book first MTN8 semifinal spot

Golden Arrows have become the first team to book their spot in the MTN8 semifinals after they defeated SuperSport United 4-3 on penalties (2-2 after extra time) at Princess Magogo Stadium on Saturday.

Abafana Bes’thende looked in trouble trailing 2-1 near the end of extra time, but they were able to pull a rabbit out of the hat in the first competitive match of the 2021-22 South African top-flight season and overcome a tough-to-beat Matsatsantsa.

Arrows enjoyed most of the possession through the first half, with the likes of Velemseni Ndwandwe and Nduduzo Sibiya seeing plenty of the ball in midfield. However, the hosts struggled to find a slick rhythm and create genuine attacking opportunities.

SuperSport spent most of their time in the defensive phase, but they were quick to spring forward when in possession, creating half-chances for strike partnership Bradley Grobler and Thamsanqa Gabuza, both of whom stung the palms of goalkeeper Sifiso Mlungwana in the opening quarter.

Mlungwana was properly tested in the 29th minute when Sipho Mbule let fly from outside the penalty area with a dipping shot that looked destined for the bottom corner, but the Arrows goalie made a fine stop diving to his left.

Mlungwana made another, more comfortable save on 43 minutes when he caught Jamie Webber’s on-target effort direct from a free-kick, before an attack at the other end saw Knox Miutizwa’s downward header turned away by Ronwen Williams, though the offside flag had been raised in the build-up.

Goalless at the break, United almost claimed an opener in the first minute of the second half, with Grobler bursting through the defence and forcing a sharp save from Mlungwana at his near post with an effort from a tight angle.

Arrows soon took the lead, with Mutizwa scoring from a penalty in the 50th minute. The spot-kick was awarded after Teboho Mokoena pulled back Sibiya inside the 18-yard area. That there were no protests from SuperSport defenders indicated that referee Abongile Tom was spot on with his decision.

It was almost 2-0 to the hosts on 66 minutes when a poor back-pass from Jesse Donn allowed Pule Mmodi to get away a snapshot that was curling on target, but he was bailed out by an outstanding recovery save from Williams.

SuperSport soon looked to shuffle their pack with a double change that introduced both Iqraam Rayners and Ghampani Lungu. The latter duly struck an equaliser on 78 minutes, beating Mlungwana at his near post with a low shot from the right of the penalty area, after fine set-up play from Mokoena and Gabuza.

Mokoena nearly gave Matsatsantsa the lead in the 85th minute, with his shot direct from a free-kick taking a slight deflection off the top of the defensive wall and hitting the crossbar. It was the closest either side came to deciding the game inside the regulation 90 minutes.

Extra time went just nine minutes before another goal arrived, with the visitors going ahead for the first time. Rayners latched onto a fine long pass from Mbule, cut inside Trevor Mathiane and whipped a great shot into the top corner of the net to make it 2-1 to United.

Arrows pushed hard for an equaliser in what remained of extra time – and were perhaps unlucky to be denied a second penalty when Luke Fleurs committed a similar offence to the first spot-kick incident – but they were ultimately rewarded in the 118th minute when substitute Michael Gumede somewhat unwittingly made it 2-2 and sent the game to penalties.

Fellow sub Siphamandla Sabelo’s excellent delivery from a free-kick was missed by Williams and ricocheted into the net via Gumede’s knee, keeping the Durban side in the hunt for the semifinals.

And Gumede also scored the decisive final penalty in the subsequent shootout, seeing Abafana Bes’thende win 4-3 to advance.

The teams will be back in action next weekend with their opening DStv Premiership matches. Arrows will host provincial rivals Maritzburg United and SuperSport will be away to Cape Town City – both on Saturday 21 August.

Golden Arrows (0) (1) 2 (Mutizwa 50’ pen, M. Gumede 118’)
SuperSport United (0) (1) 2 (Lungu 78’, Rayners 99’) - After extra time, Arrows won 4-3 on penalties

Penalty sequence: (SuperSport kick first) Mokoena misses 0-0, Sibisi scores 0-1; Mbule scores 1-1, Conco misses 1-1; Lungu scores 2-1, Sabelo scores 2-2; Rayners misses 2-2, Mmodi scores 2-3; Gabuza scores 3-3, M. Gumede scores 4-3.

Arrows: Mlungwana, M. Dube, Mathiane, Sibisi, Cele, Dlamini (Magawana 108’), Ndwandwe, Mmodi, Sibiya (Sabelo 108’), Mtshali (Conco 84’), Mutizwa (M. Gumede 71’)

SuperSport: Williams, Phillips, Nhlapo, Fleurs, Bhasera, Webber (Rayners 69’), Donn, Mokoena, Mbule, Grobler (Lungu 69’), Gabuza