Above: Lelethu Skelem during the match against the Kaizer Chiefs at the Orlando Stadium. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix.
In what was a nail-biting affair Stellenbosch Football Club (SFC) earned a well-deserved point against top of the table Kaizer Chiefs on Sunday, 23, drawing the game 1-1 at the Orlando Stadium.
The Stellenbosch outfit were without key figures in that of Robyn Johannes who suffered an injury in the Cape Derby and Granwald Scott who was suspended after receiving a third yellow card in the clash against their neighbours, Cape Town City FC.
Into the starting XI saw the inclusion of Tanzanian international, 18-year-old Ally Msengi and central defender Sibusiso Mthethwa. Head Coach of SFC, Steven Barker, included Ryan Moon ahead of Asavela Mbekile and gave the nod to Stellenbosch born and SFC Youth product Jayden Adams whose name appeared in the match day squad of 20, albeit starting from the bench – the youngster’s first appearance on the team sheet since securing his professional contract.
Ashley du Preez at the Orlando Stadium. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix.
SFC started the game on the back foot with Kaizer Chiefs dominating in all areas. Chiefs who came off a loss in their previous outing against Bloemfontein Celtic were looking to right their wrongs and create some distance between steadily approaching league contenders, 2nd placed Sundowns.
The Amakhosi probed at the Stellies goal with two chances coming off a Reeve Frosler strike in the 13th minute and later a glancing Ngezana header in the 25th, which went wide of SFC shot-stopper Lee Langeveldt’s upright.
Against the run of play it was Stellenbosch who broke the deadlock turning the Chiefs’ defence, Du Preez found space out wide and delivered a pin-point accurate cross to find his striking partner Leletu Skelem who found the bottom corner.
Stellies went in at the break a goal to the good, hoping to defend their advantage and possibly secure that all elusive second goal.
Ernst Middendorp, who was not shy in showcasing his disappointment in his team, made three changes at halftime, bringing on Lazarous Kambole, Dumisani Zuma and Kgotso Moleko.
It was indeed one of those substitutions who would go on to find the Amakhosi’s equalizer when the Stellenbosch defence was caught napping after defending extremely well throughout the duration of the match. Kombole with his first for the club, 1-1 the score after the Zambian found his side’s equalizer in the 57th firing from close range, leaving no chance for Stellenbosch’s goalkeeper.
High flying Ashley Du Preez could have stolen it in the 86th, but it was not to be after a well-worked interchange of passing gave Nyiko Mobbie space out wide that put the 22 year-old in on goal with a pass into space, only for the striker to find the side-netting, a chance gone wasted.
Skelem picked up his first Man of the Match award after his performance on the night and said, “I want to thank my parents and all those back home in Kayamandi, Idas Valley and Cloetesville, this award means a lot to me and it’s for all our supporters back home.”
Skelem has started all three matches since entering the bio-bubble and has now scored two and assisted one. Him and his striking partner, Idas Valley born Du Preez, have caught the attention of the football fraternity with both players racking up impressive stats.
“Yeah me and my boy we’ve been working together since the NFD, so we know what we are about and in the first game I assisted him now it is my turn to score. So, I want to thank him as well,” said Skelem.
In the post-match interview with Supersport, Barker said, “It’s a massive point for us. It is a good reward for the hard work we’ve put in, to now come here and get a point against the log leaders. I am very proud the effort that my players have shown and continue to show since being in the bubble.”
Stellenbosch have accumulated 7 points from an available 9 in their last three matches and will look to carry that momentum going into their next fixture on Friday 28 August against 12th placed and coastal rivals Chippa United.
“How I see it is that we’re still unbeaten in the bubble, so hats off to our players who have shown their commitment in striving to continuously deliver,” said Barker.