Devin Titus (Rooster Pictures)
Threatened by relegation, Stellenbosch struggled almost literally to bounce back and win an impressive 3-2 win against rivals Cape Town City in a DStv Premiership Cape derby match at the Danie Craven Stadium on Friday.
Fearing relegation to the South African top flight, the home side sat in 15th place before kick-off, while Eric Tinkler’s charges sat in seventh place and looked to upset the top four with a win.
Instead, Steve Barker’s lightning-fast attack canceled out goals from Lorenzo Gordinho and Darwin González thanks to Devin Titus’ brace, while Sinethemba Mthobisi Mngomezulu netted the winner.
Barker’s side climbed three places to 12th after 19 games, but in their remaining 11 league games, there is still work to be done as Maritzburg United, TS Galaxy, Swallows and Marumo Gallants all have games to play.
SCORECARD | PSL – Stellenbosch FC v Cape Town
It took City five minutes to take the lead from a deep corner, when Gordinho pounced on a loose ball that goalkeeper Stephens Sage was unable to clear as the former Kaizer Chiefs defender scored the opener from close range.
Devin Titus could have equalized six minutes later when Stellies immediately looked to throw cold water on City’s lead, but Darren Keet was up for the challenge when he dove just in time to tame the low blow lurking in the bottom corner.
The attacking threat of Stellies from Mervin Boji and Junior Mendieta would lament the golden chances that followed as the home side showed great tactical awareness to use their pace against City’s slow defence.
On a counter-attacking move, Boji overcame the offside trap, only having to beat Keet with teammate Jayden Adams flanking beside him, but opted to go for goal, the former Bafana keeper blocking the shot with his left boot.
Mendieta then covered her face with her palms as she watched Keet block her effort.
Stellies looked comfortable keeping most of the ball possession, while City handled the game perfectly to their advantage.
City pounced on a rare attack from their opening goal as González, with a smooth move off the ball, saw him receive the ball from midfield and fire a low shot past Sage’s gloves to double the visitors’ lead.
Titus then redeemed himself when Taariq Fielies couldn’t deal with a cross from Stellies, and the ball fell into the path of the speedy striker, who made no mistake in landing a low, bumpy cross with Keet off his line and sending the crowd local in a frenzy. before the half-time whistle.
Tinkler responded by bringing in Taahir Goedeman at the start of the second verse, but Stellies continued to dominate, looking for an equalizer.
City were lucky they didn’t bring a man down after Brice Ambina’s sliding tackle caught captain Deano Van Rooyen. After referee Badi Luxolo issued a yellow card to the defender, boos rang out in the iconic stadium.
But the home crowd would celebrate with euphoria no less than 90 seconds later, when Titus completed his brace after poor City defending.
Tinkler responded to Stellies’ goal again by bringing in Khanyisa Mayo, but her arrival could have seen Stellies take the lead.
A poor clearance from Keet saw Van Rooyen grab the ball and send a through ball to Mendieta. It became two against one when Boji joined in on the fun, but the Argentinian selfishly went for goal and Keet kicked the ball to safety.
Play escalated as Stellies continued to use the counter-attack to his advantage, but City striker Bertrand Mani stepped between Sage and his clearance after he lifted his leg to stop it. The goalkeeper did not like the attempt, and tempers slowly flared.
Not long after that incident, Sage correctly gloved the ball on the ground, but Mani kicked the ball further into his chest, and the goalkeeper didn’t have it when he grabbed the striker by the neck. Seconds later, the Stellies and City players scuffled as referee Luxolo and his assistants tried to defuse the situation.
That only tipped the scales further in Stellies’ favour, as they seemed eager to win maximum points, with the home crowd cheering for them under the Danie Craven spotlight.
Barker made some changes, and super sub Mngomezulu was the last man standing in another counter-attacking move.
This time, Titus sent the ball to his teammate, and the lanky forward ensured that Stellies moved out of the relegation zone and brought an epic finish to the Cape derby.