The University of Fort Hare will play in the top tier of South African women’s football next season.
The university’s wonder women held their nerve in a dramatic penalty shootout against Croesus late yesterday afternoon to gain promotion to next season’s Hollywoodbets Super League.
The victory also saw them qualify for the Sasol league national playoffs final tomorrow.
The two sides were locked at two goals apiece when the final whistle blew and, if the tension of the 90-minute see-saw battle was not enough, the spot-kick showdown set hearts racing one more time.
Despite the searing summer heat at Bloemfontein’s Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium and the presence of Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis in the stands, Fort Hare kept their cool to net every one of their five penalties.
Croesus’ hopes shattered when they missed their third kick from the spot.
When Nosikho Magqaza slotted UFH’s final penalty, one could hear the screams of delight from their fans who had made the trip to Bloem.
“No words can describe how I feel right now,” coach Asanda Mnakaniso said minutes after the match.
“Imagine 20 games unbeaten, just imagine.”
Fort Hare reached the national playoffs after dominating the Sasol league coastal stream and beating inland winners Executive Ladies in the final of provincial playoff.
They booked their place in the national semifinal after winning both their matches and topping their pool this week.
Mnakaniso said UFH had studied Croesus and came up with a plan to counter their attacking style of play. They focused a lot on defending against free kicks and corners.
The match was one of end-to-end football, with Fort Hare taking the lead via a thunderbolt strike by Nizole Ngece that found the top-left corner of the net.
Croesus hit back soon afterwards through Koketso Mahlangu before Tshepiso Mokabane powered a header home to put the Gauteng side into the lead for the first time.
Fort Hare were in danger of losing control but rallied to keep Croesus’ lead to one goal at the break.
Mnakaniso said it had been important to equalise as soon as possible.
His wish was granted in the 48th minute when sustained pressure down the right followed by an inswinging cross forced Croesus defender Lisihlo Duwe to concede an own goal.
From that moment on Fort Hare defended resolutely and were fortunate not to fall behind again when Croesus’ Lisihlo Duwe fluffed her shot in front of an open goal in the 75th minute.
Fort Hare ‘keeper Unnati Gcamgcam had a huge game in goal; preventing the opposition from scoring on more than one occasion.
While UFH had already made history by reaching the Super League, they would not be taking their foot off the gas against Lindelani in the playoff final, Mnakaniso said.
“These girls are so motivated, they want to be the champions.”