The 2022 FNB Varsity Football tournament is as unpredictable and challenging as the 2021 edition with teams ascending and descending in the top four positions on the log. In a fiercely contested match on Thursday, 18 August 2022, defending champions University of Johannesburg (UJ) senior men’s football team registered their first home game win against North West University with a 2-1 final score at a packed UJ Soweto Stadium.
Going into the fifth match, UJ was in fourth position with seven points while NWU were the log leaders. This year, there is a 3-points difference between the top six teams. With two matches remaining for all the participating teams, the tournament is still open for the top six teams to qualify for the semi-finals.
The match started on a low tempo with both teams struggling to create goal-scoring opportunities. UJ’s failure to retain possession in the first half of the game gave NWU an upper hand in controlling the movement of the ball. UJ goalkeeper, Richard Lona, was forced to make several saves to keep the Orange Army in the game.
After half an hour, Thulani Zandamela scored the opening goal for the hosts in the 35th minute of the game through a good combination passes by the UJ players. This goal gave UJ an oomph to attack the visitors going into the halftime break.
UJ upped their desire to score the second half, with NWU also playing an end-to-end attacking football to get an equalizer. UJ extended their lead in the 90th minute through Gerald Ndlovu’s solo prowess to score a goal that sealed the deal. The UJ players switched off for a moment, conceding a goal immediately after Ndlovu’s goal with NWU finding the back of the net through a free kick. However, the goal came too late for the visitors as the match ended 2-1.
The NWU captain was sent off, reducing the visitors down to 10 men on the pitch.
“I am over the moon. We have been working for hard at training. The coaches encourage us to hit the ball low and hard and must be on target so that we can get a goal – and that’s what happened. After training, we did extra techniques and put in a bit of extra effort so that helped me a lot this week,” said Ndlovu.
Man of the match Puleng Bapela said he is happy with winning the Man of the Match. “It was our first two goals at home, we needed to secure the goals because we could not score a single goal against the two previous opponents who we played at home. So, this win was for the fans,” said Bapela.
The Orange Army is currently in a tie for the top spot with UFS Kovies after five games (10 points from 3 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss). UJ head coach, Karabo Mogudi, emphasised that they are taking each game as it comes and are not thinking about the log standings. He wants the players to enjoy each match.
Thulani Zandamela (UJ)
Gerald Ndlovu (UJ)
Adam Fynn (NWU)
Man of the match
Puleng Bapela (UJ)