GAUTENG claimed the 2012 edition of the SAB Under-21 Regional Championships at the KaNyamazane Stadium near Nelspruit, Mpumalanga yesterday.
They defeated Universities Sports of South Africa (USSA) 3-2 on penalties after both sides were deadlocked at one-all at the end of regulation time.
The tactical USSA side was beaten by a Gauteng team that defied odds to reach the final after starting the tournament on a wrong footing with a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the USSA.
This was sweet revenge for Gauteng who also lost last year’s final to USSA in Johannesburg.
Thapelo Morena put Gauteng ahead five minutes into the match, taking advantage of an unsettled USSA defence. The University side regrouped and put on a better display, the one that had them heavily tipped to win the tournament.
Their efforts were rewarded when Ruben de Freitas equalised in the 77th minute which was enough to push the match to penalties. Tournament top scorer Philimon Lehodi, Peter Mapheto and Zwivhuya Matombo converted for Gauteng, while Kgosietsile Ndlovu and de Freitas netted for USSA.
The result saw Gauteng claim the trophy along with a cool twenty-thousand-rand (R20-000) cheque.
In the earlier match, hosts Mpumalanga washed away the disappointment of failing to reach the finals of the tournament on home soil by grabbing bronze. They defeated KwaZulu Natal by two goals to one (2-1) in the third place play-off at the same venue.
Simphiwe Mtsweni ensured Mpumalanga draw first blood over KZN when he netted in the 38th minute. In the second-half on the 56th minute Sbusiso Mahamba made it two, which could have been number three had Siphesihle Lukhele converted from the penalty spot.
KZN’s talisman Nduduzo Sibiya reduced the deficit from the penalty spot in the 63rd minute.
The goal brought some spark to their attack that looked to have been fading but it was all too late as the side finished fourth.
Gauteng booked their place in the final with a victory over Mpumalanga on Friday, while USSA saw off the challenge of KZN to reach the last four.
“This was a great day for football and a chance to give this youngster a platform to perform on. I am just hoping that these boys can remain in the system so that tomorrow we call upon them in the national teams for the good of the nation. This is a good start,” said SAFA President Kirsten President.
Tournament Top Goal Scorer Philimon Lehodi (Gauteng – six Goals)
Goalkeeper of the Tournament Reuben Mokoena (Gauteng)
Player of the Tournament Peter Maphetho (Gauteng)
Coach of the Tournament Smart Ndlovu (KwaZulu-Natal)
Referee of the Tournament Khulekani Thusi (KwaZulu-Natal)
Ass. Referee of the Tournament Sindi Ndala (Mpumalanga)