Highlands Park made history on Tuesday evening after defeating Polokwane City on penalties to advance to their first-ever MTN8 final.
Rise and Shine coach Zlatko Krmpotic rang the changes from their narrow win over Kaizer Chiefs, bringing back goalkeeper George Chigova in goal, despite a Man of The Match performance by his understudy Mwenya Chibwe, while Mohammed Anas also returned to boost the side. Meanwhile, the hosts made only one alteration, with Rodney Ramagalela the only new starter from the semi-final first-leg.
The sides were not holding back in the early stages as Polokwane came the closest to opening the scoring in the 21st minute through Walter Musona, who went through on the right side of the box but goalkeeper Thela Ngobeni made a stellar save to deny the visitors a crucial away goal.
The Lions of the North almost broke the deadlock a few minutes later after Lindokuhle Mbatha was slipped through on goal,l but his attempted chip was tipped over the bar by Chigova. Krmpotic’s charges were sitting deep and absorbing the pressure in the closing stages of the first stanza, although they were threatening on counter-attacks, while Highlands were taking the initiative to attack but they could not break the defence before the break.
City were getting out of their defensive shell in the early exchanges of the second stanza while Owen Da Gama was looking to stretch their defence as he brought on speedy winger Mokete Mogaila in place of Mbatha after 56 minutes. Krmpotic on the other hand, was concerned about the freshness of his troops and withdrew Musona for Vusimuzi Mngomezulu for the final 209 minutes. However, Mothobi Mvala nearly snatched the winner for Highlands in the last ten minutes with a towering header in the centre of the box that was parried over the bar by Chigova, which sent the game to penalties. Highlands went on to win 4-3 in the penalty shoot-out, with Mogaila netting the decisive spot-kick in sudden-death to secure a first-ever place in the MTN8 final.
Result: Highlands Park 0-0 Polokwane City (Highlands won 4-3 on penalties)
Here’s how they lined up:Highlands:
42. Ngobeni, 21. Mokoena, 19. Munyai, 21. Mbhele, 24. Rae, 22. Williams, 42. Mahlangu, 43. Mbatha, 38. Shalulile, 14. Mvala, 13. Ramagalela.
Heugh, 12. Mogaila, 27. Jooste, 28. Mkhabela, 5. Fransman, 17. Motlafi, 7. Ndoro.
1. Chigova, 2. Mvelase, 24. Hlongwane, 22. Mbonani, 27. Motloung, 14. Manaka, 15. Musona, 18. W.Maluleke, 3. Anas, 8. J.Maluleke, 10. Tlolane.
40. Chibwe, 28. Nthatheni, 33. Nku, 16. Mngomezulu, 32. Buthelezi, 6. Chauke, 20. Phiri.