Amajita meet Zimbabwe in final

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For the first time since the onset of the annual tournament, the defending champions were not handed victory on a silver platter as the tactically disciplined Islanders stretched them to the limit.

The teams finished the match goalless in an encounter made scrappy by the windy conditions and rain that pounded the artificial turf at the Thulamahashe Stadium in Mpumalanga.

Goalkeeper, Jackson Mabokgwane emerged the hero for the hosts as he saved Sedera Andriamparany’s penalty while Kaizer Chiefs’ rising star Wayne Matle converted his to take Amajita into the final, where Zimbabwe awaits them.

South Africa’s other spot kicks were scored by Aupa Manyisa, Sibusiso Ntuli and substitute Dominic Mateba, while Tlou Molekwane missed the target.

Zozimar Carlos, Urbain Andramampionona, Anicet Andriantenaina and Bernardin Rasolomandbby scored for the visitors while Andriamparany and Claudio Ramiadamanana missed.

The hosts struggled in regulation time as the tight marking Madagascans gave them very little time on the ball while midfield assassin Michael Nkambule was closed down by the visitors’ solid midfield.

Amajita could have opened the scoring in the 25th minute but an alert Anatole Ndriamparany in goals for Madagascar did well to smother Man of the Match Sibusiso Ntuli’s strike from 25 yards out.

The hardworking yet misfiring Ntuli wasted a glorious opportunity a minute later when he shot straight at the visiting keeper after a neat interchange of passes with Thulani Serero.

In the 36th minute, Nkambule went on a mazy run that left several Madagascans in his wake and threatened to pass the ball through to Ntuli, only for the AmaZulu striker to be ruled offside.

At the other end Mobokgwane had to employ his diving capabilities to stop a Ramiadamanana grounder.

The visitors came out of their shells in the second half with Ramiadamanana and Yvan Rajiorimanha causing all sorts of problems, but it was Ntuli who came close to breaking the deadlock but his powerful strike was brilliantly dealt with by an inspired Ndriamparany five minutes after the restart.

With 12 minutes left on the clock, the Islanders almost punished sloppy defending by the hosts when Andriantenaina beat Mabokgwane with a first-time shot from outside the penalty area, but the ball went agonisingly wide as the South African keeper lay sprawling on the astroturf.

The Madagascan bench was left cursing the player’s luck as again Andriantenaina produced the miss of the match when he tamely shot wide with only the host goalkeeper to beat a minute later.

Amajita thought they had earned a penalty when Nkambule appeared to be tripped when he was about to pull the trigger but the Mozambican whistle man waved play on.

The hosts brought on Mateba while Madagascar introduced Ibrahim Amada but the late substitutions did nothing to prevent the game going to the nail-biting shootout.

Amajita play bitter rivals Zimbabwe in a potentially explosive final on Sunday at the same venue. The inaugural champions made light work of surprise semifinalists Namibia in the other semifinal.