Above: Swallows Captain Lebohang Mokoena jockeys Asavela Mbekile. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky.
– Stellenbosch Newsroom
Stellenbosch Football Club (SFC), promoted to the South African Premier Division for the 2019/20 season, played their first game at the Danie Craven stadium against Moroka Swallows FC to a 1 -1 draw on Sunday 25 October.
This is after a year of having to play their home games in Cape Town as no stadium in Stellenbosch complied with the requirements set by the Premier Soccer League (PSL). Stellenbosch Academy of Sport (SAS), the owners of SFC, and Stellenbosch University, in a strategic partnership, renovated the stadium and it is now the new official home of the SFC.
Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic meant that no spectators were allowed in the stadium, much to the disappointment of local soccer fans.
SFC Granwald Scott eluding Swallows midfielder Vuyo Mere. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky.
From left, Sibusiso Mthethwa, Robyn Johannes and Marc van Heerden. Celebration after scoring the equalising penalty. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky.
This did not deter some fans who took advantage of viewing the game from the natural basin surrounding the Danie Craven Stadium. Much to the amusement of the television commentators, a security guard did not try and remove them but merely got them to observe some social distancing.
As things stood, television viewers had to content themselves with a crowd backtrack which included some vuvuzela toots.
The game itself was mostly a scrappy affair with both sides showing some early season rust. Moroka Swallows, who themselves got promoted to the Premier Division this year, gave a decent accounting of themselves and showed some of the form which brought them up from the first division.
The game started with Stellenbosch playing from deep in their half and Swallows contenting themselves with keeping possession in their area and then using long kicks into the Stellenbosch half to place the Stellenbosch defence under pressure.
This tactic paid off when a terrible defensive mistake by Stellenbosch captain Robyn Johannes in the 15th minute placed his goalkeeper, Lee Langeveldt, under immense pressure, as he fouled a Swallows attacker, and the referee awarded a penalty. Ruzaigh Gamildien made no mistake and sent Langeveldt the wrong way to score the first PSL goal at the Danie Craven Stadium.
In the 27th minute, the referee awarded Stellenbosch a lucky penalty when Swallows goalkeeper fouled Stellenbosch striker Skelem in the penalty area. Johannes made up for his previous defensive mistake to even the game up to 1 -1.
It was to stay this way for the rest of the game with Stellenbosch showing little creativity in the midfield.
Swallows defender Sipho Sibiya faces debutant 17-year-old Roy-Keane Avontuur. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky.
Swallows used their fullbacks to play into the midfield and then completed long passes into the Stellenbosch area, whose defence started shaping up late in the first half.
Stellenbosch neglected to play higher up and allowed Swallows to enjoy most of their 61% ball possession in relative comfort. In the second half, they seemed to maintain better form after no doubt a few harsh words by coach Steven Barker during the break.
Ryan Moon had the chance to score for Stellenbosch and in the 89th minute 17-year old Roy-Keane Avontuur completed an exquisite pass to Moda who managed to steer his finish wide of the goalpost with only the goalkeeper to beat.
In the 93rd minute, Stellenbosch goalkeeper Langeveldt made a great save to deny Swallows the winner.
Stellenbosch will have to look at their discipline and play with more urgency in games to come if they are to better their 10th place finish of last year.
The good news story of the day was that of young Avontuur who arrived in Stellenbosch a few weeks ago to try out one of the junior teams. He so impressed the management that they included him in the team on Sunday, and he had a decent debut. Stellenbosch coach Barker said that if you are good enough, you are old enough. He noted that Stellenbosch is a community-based club which has set itself the goal of providing the opportunity for local talent to emerge.
After the game, Barker said that it was not the best Stellenbosch performance and that his team allowed Swallows too much space on the ball.
Man of the match, SFC defender Alan Robertson, in his post-match interview commented that it wasn’t an easy first game but that the team would take the point and move on to their next encounter.
The next encounter for Stellenbosch will be against Orlando Pirates on Wednesday 28 October at 19:30.