Devin Titus (Gallo Images)
Relegation-threatened Stellenbosch fought almost literally to claw their way back and earn a stunning 3-2 win against rivals Cape Town City in a DStv Premiership Cape derby encounter at Danie Craven Stadium on Friday.
The home side dreading the drop to South Africa’s first division, was in 15th position before kick-off, while their opponents were seventh, looking to disturb the top four with a victory.
Instead, Steve Barker’s electric and speedy attack cancelled out Lorenzo Gordinho and Darwin Gonzalez’s goals courtesy of Devin Titus’ brace, while Sinethemba Mthobisi Mngomezulu netted the winning goal.
Barker’s side climbed three places to 12th after 19 games, but the work still needs to be done, as Maritzburg United, TS Galaxy, Swallows and Marumo Gallants have games in hand.
SCORECARD | PSL – Stellenbosch FC v Cape Town City
It took City five minutes to take the lead from a deep-lying corner-kick, as Gordinho pounced on a loose ball which the goalkeeper Stephens Sage failed to clear as the former Kaizer Chiefs defender netted the opening goal from close range.
Devin Titus could have equalised six minutes later as Stellies immediately looked to pour cold water over City’s lead, but Darren Keet was up for the challenge as he dived just in the nick of time to tame the low strike that was lurking into the bottom corner.
Stellies’ attacking threat of Mervin Boji and Junior Mendieta would rue their golden opportunities that followed as the home side displayed great tactical awareness to use their pace against City’s slow defence.
In a counter-attacking move, Boji beat the offside trap, and he only had Keet to beat with his teammate Jayden Adams flanked beside him but opted to go for goal, and the former Bafana goalkeeper blocked the shot with his left boot.
Next, Mendieta sunk palms over his face as he witnessed Keet block his effort.
Stellies looked comfortable in holding most of the ball possession while City managed the game perfectly to their advantage.
City pounced on a rare attack since their opening goal as Darwin Gonzalez smooth off-the-ball movement saw him receive the ball from midfield and put a low strike beyond Sage’s gloves to double the vising sides lead.
Titus then redeemed himself as Taariq Fielies failed to deal with a Stellies cross, and the ball fell into the path of the speedy forward, who made no mistake to strike a low rugged cross with Keet off his line and send the home crowd into a frenzy before the half-time whistle.
Eric Tinkler responded by bringing on Taahir Goedeman at the start of the second stanza, but Stellies continued to dominate, searching for the equaliser.
City found themselves lucky not to have gone down a man after Brice Ambina’s sliding tackle caught captain Deano Van Rooyen. After referee Badi Luxolo issued the defender with a yellow card, boos echoed throughout the iconic arena.
But the home crowd would celebrate with euphoria no less than 90 seconds later, as Titus completed his brace following poor defending from City.
Tinkler again responded to Stellies goal by bringing on Khanyisa Mayo, but his arrival could have seen Stellies take the lead.
A poor clearance from Keet saw Van Rooyen latch onto the ball and send a through ball for Mendieta. It turned into two-versus-one as Boji joined in on the fun, but the Argentinian selfishly went for goal, and Keet legged the ball to safety.
The game intensified as Stellies continued to use the counter-attack to their advantage, but City forward Bertrand Mani came between Sage and his clearance after he raised his leg to stop it. The goalkeeper did not like the attempt, and tempers slowly flared.
Not long after that incident, Sage rightfully gloved the ball, but Mani kicked the ball further into his chest, and the goalkeeper was not having it as he grabbed the striker around the neck. Seconds later, Stellies and City players hovered around in a scuffle as referee Luxolo and his assistants attempted to bring calmness.
That only tipped the scale further in Stellies’ favour as they looked eager to earn maximum points, with the home crowd cheering them on under the Danie Craven floodlights.
Barker made some changes, and super-sub Mngomezulu was the last man standing in yet another counter-attacking move. This time around, Titus squared the ball to his teammate, and the lanky forward ensured Stellies climbed out of the relegation zone and brought an epic end to the Cape derby clash.
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