The ABC Motsepe League in the Western Cape commenced with week 5 this past weekend and we took the trip to Mbekweni Sports Field in Paarl where Batalion FC played host to Grassy Park Utd.
The home side, now coached by Boebie Solomons, have recorded 2 wins before this encounter and boasts one of the better defensive records in the league only conceding 2 goals in their matches played. Solomons would’ve expected this record to be challenged as the visitors have netted 13 goals in their 4 matches played and it comes as no surprise as Grassy Park have assembled quite an experienced squad this year.
Coach Theo Hempe, back at GP after having been dismissed in the 2017/2018 season returns this season and heads a star-studded squad with the likes of Jerry Mxabo, Roysten Rhoda and Tshepiso Tlhapi who offer years of experience to the unit. Not forgetting the younger playmakers like Craig Joemath, Luke Vester and Fawaaz Bassadien.
Describing the weather as hot on Saturday in Paarl would be an understatement as the sun seemed to be stationary and with no accompanying wind to mention. The match however started at a high tempo with Batalion showing the ascendancy and forcing the away side to defend for the 1st quarter of the match.
The home side managed to place the ball in the GP net but celebrations were cut short as the far side assistant had his flag raised for an offside. Batalion were outnumbering their opponents in the midfield as GP’s Waseem George and Jerry Mxabo were positioned as twin strikers while Nazier Jacobs laid quite deep, leaving Luke Vester on his own to deal with the approaching Batalion playmakers.
The home side were efficient in their attack and owning more possession of the ball with Aphiwe Mkuzo and Siyabulela Mbenenge creating opportunities in front of goal. GP were guilty of a too slow build up from the back in the first 25 mins of the half and had to do quite a share of defending during that time.
The last 20 mins of the half was more balanced as GP got the ball to their front players quicker than before and either of their strikers got closer to the midfield causing them to create combinations and get the ball out wide where the crosses were delivered from.
Fawaaz Basadien from GP showed his class as he eased past defenders to create opportunities while his teammate Craig Joemath showed his attacking capabilities as he started a few attacks from his position at left-back.
Just before the halftime break Batalion’s Mbenenge saw his free-kick attempt, which was just inside the GP half, hit the crossbar and cleared by the opponent’s defence.
From the restart, it was evident that both coaches influenced the match by their tactical changes. For Solomons, his team started playing the quickest route to the front two who were applying pressure on the GP centre backs. The long pass was delivered behind the defence into space with the front strikers of Batalion running onto the end of the pass. They were unfortunately not able to capitalize as the defensive pair of Rhoda and Tlhapi stood firm and cut out any danger.
For Hempe, his team were now looking to use the width of the pitch and with the introduction of Thurlo Wood at wide left, caused many problems for the Batalion defence. Wood could consider himself unlucky not to earn his side a penalty as his turn of pace saw him fouled inside the penalty area but the man in the middle called it as no foul.
The rest of the half had action on both ends of the pitch but neither of them could make them count. The visitors were awarded a penalty late in the 2nd half when Yusuf Abrahams was adjudged to be brought down in the penalty area of Batalion. Basadien missed his attempt as he hit the crossbar with the goalkeeper diving in the opposite direction.
Batalion had the last attack but failed to convert and saw the match end in a goalless draw.