Woodlands fall short in thriller semi-final

Woodlands United’s Casely Watson looks to spread the ball with Rygersdal’s Darren Omaticus hot on his heels.

The game was a nice advert for local football, said Woodlands United supporter Jonathan Mufumbi following his side’s 2-1 defeat in a highly anticipated and nail-biting Coke Cup senior division semi-final clash against Rygersdal, at the Stephen Reagon sports complex, in Westridge, on Sunday.

Mufumbi, from Lentegeur, and his son joined a few hundred fellow supporters on a nearby hill overlooking the A-field at the Stephen Reagon sports complex, in Westridge.

As things stand, spectators are still not allowed inside stadiums but this did not deter Woodlands’ loyal band of fans from turning up to support their team, even if it meant looking in from the outside. As it turned out, they might well have had the best seat in the house considering their high vantage point.

In a classic battle of youth versus experience, the Woody Boys side showed much promise in the first half but seemed to run out of ideas in the second half.

Casely Watson headed the ball into the back of the net from a free kick mid-way through the first half to put the homeside in the lead, much to the delight of Mufumbi and his fellow supporters

With the crowd behind them, homeground advantage and playing with the wind behind their backs in the second half, things were looking up.

However, Rygersdal had other ideas, dictating play for most of the second half. Yusuf Abrahams equalised seconds before half-time with a great finish at the near post, courtesy of a cross from the right by Darron Omaticus.

Thurlow Wood’s late strike in the second half sealed it for Rygersdal, following a strong run and a perfectly-timed assist from Carl Lark, who brushed past two defenders before crossing the ball.

The second half was a tight affair with Woodlands’ Dermain-Lee Williams coming off the bench to add some firepower. Williams came close to extending his side’s lead, hitting the crossbar which would have made it 2-1 in their favour.

“We could’ve won the game had that shot that hit the crossbar gone in,” said Mufumbi, “or the fact that we had three starters suspended for that game. But that’s football, you need a little bit of luck on your side as well. When I had a look at the match day squad and saw the average age of the players I was very happy that our future looks so bright as half that team weren’t part of the 2019 winning team. Two years on, we’re again competing in a Coke semi-final which tells me the coaches are doing a good job behind the scenes and the players are developing.”

Although disappointed with the result, Mufumbi was quick to compliment the winning side.

“I just want to thank Rygersdal for giving us a great game and giving our players a chance to play against ex-professionals to see if they can compete at that level,” he said.

Woodlands coach Zahir Arensdse concurred, saying: “We knew it was going to be a tough game. Unfortunately we couldn’t hold onto our lead. They scored the goals which we couldn’t. They’re a good side and I wish them all the best in the final.

“It was a good experience for our younger players. What people don’t realise is that half of our squad is under 20 and that we played against some former professional players.

“The players should get all the thanks for getting us this far as well as the coaching staff and the club exco and of course, a very special thanks to our loyal fans.”

In other senior men’s action, Helderberg region’s Dynamos FC beat Mandalay’s Clover FC 3-2 in their sem-final; Shozaloza FC beat Dangerous Heroes 4-3 and; Vasco da Gama beat Spurs WFC 4-0 in the women’s division.