|Neil Tovey © Backpagepix
Thanda Royal Zulu coach Neil Tovey’s half time team talk had the desired effect as his team bounced back to beat Santos 2-1 at Athlone on Saturday night.
The victory sees Amabhubesi right back in the play-offs – they are equal on Santos with four points, while Chippa United have two points, although the Chilli Boys have played a game less.
Needing victory to keep their promotion hopes alive, things didn’t look good for Thanda as they found themselves outplayed, and a goal down, after the opening 45 minutes in the Mother City.
But Tovey’s words proved to be inspirational as the KZN came out and won the game in the second half, thanks to goals from captain Asanda Mvalo and Edwin Sitayitayi.
“It was a game of two halves to a certain degree, we never got ourselves going in the first half,” explained the former Bafana Bafana captain.
“We always knew that they had dangerous areas of the game in that ball up to Rodgers and players working off him, we always knew it was going to be tough.
“We let ourselves down in the first half because we never controlled the game well enough. When we got the ball up to our front runners it came back too quickly, the strikers weren’t holding it up, they were trying to flick things and it didn’t quite work for us.
“We had a big discussion at half time that we needed to hold the ball up better and bring the midfielders into play – we lost the ball too quickly and couldn’t support – as we got it we give it away,” said Tovey.
His counterpart, Mart Nooij, was left reflecting on a game he felt his charges should have had wrapped up in the 55 minutes – the Peoples’ Team had several good opportunities just after the break to increase their lead, but failed to find the killer touch in front of goal.
“First half we played well, we put ourselves in the position which we wanted with the one zero score. Second half we came out to finish it, to look for the second goal, which was vey possible in the first ten minutes when we had three good opportunities.
“But then, like what always seems to happen in football, the opponent came out and scored from an unexpected corner. Two headers in our own box beat us.
“They basically had three opportunities and they scored two, we had more than five chances and scored only one goal,” he said.
Nooij was left frustrated at his team’s tendency to be their own worst enemy on occasion, and is also not looking to make excuses in terms of the handful of players he had missing through suspension.
“The nasty thing for us is if you look at how the team played, they did well, but when we made some substitutions suddenly we were giving the ball to the opponent.
“Unfortunately Santos is still strong at complicating our own affairs when we are in a comfortable position.
“We wouldn’t have played like we did in the first half if that (the suspensions) had affected the team, so I will not hide behind this excuse, I stay in the same opinion that in the first 55 minutes we could have determined the match.”