The magnificent Mbombela Stadium was the setting for the opening hit-out of Perth Glory’s South African tour and although a single first-half goal ultimately condemned them to defeat at the hands of top flight side Amazulu, coach Ian Ferguson took plenty of positives from his side’s overall performance.
The magnificent Mbombela Stadium was the setting for the opening hit-out of Perth Glory-s South African tour and although a single first-half goal ultimately condemned them to defeat at the hands of top flight side Amazulu, coach Ian Ferguson took plenty of positives from his side-s overall performance.
“It was our first competitive game and considering they (Amazulu) are only two weeks out from the start of their season and we are still ten weeks away from the start of ours, I thought it was a pretty reasonable display and I was pleased with the fitness levels of our boys," Ferguson said.
“The opposition was good, but we put in a great effort tonight and although obviously we want to win all of our games, results are not the be all and end all at this stage.
“Getting our fitness levels up and working on combinations is what we-re about at the moment.
“We-ll get stronger and you have to bear in mind that we were also without the likes of Steven McGarry, Billy Mehmet and Shane Smeltz for tonight-s game.
“We will change the team around and start different personnel for our next game on Friday to make sure that we get the most out of what is a fantastic trip for us.
“At this stage it also looks as if we didn-t pick up any injuries which is another positive and we can now start to look ahead to the Platinum Stars game later this week.”
Glory lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation on what was a mild winter-s evening in Nelspruit, with lone striker Travis Dodd and attacking midfield trio Adrian Zahra, Nicky Ward and Chris Harold interchanging almost continually in a bid to keep Amazulu-s backline guessing.
And that fluid approach in the final third almost paid dividends as early as the 4th minute when, with some assistance from Liam Miller, Dodd teed up Harold, but the former Gold Coast man saw his angled drive flash just over the bar.
In Kagiso Senamela, Sfiso Vilakazi and Joseph Lekata, however, Amazulu had some impressive attacking talents of their own and their pace and mobility began to ask some questions of Glory-s defence as the half wore on.
The Natal side were more than happy to throw numbers forward and on 37 minutes another of their rapid thrusts down the left flank yielded what proved to be the only goal of the night.
Bongane Mbhele picked up possession midway inside the Glory half and switched on the after-burners before beating Danny Vukovic at his near post with a well-struck low drive.
Seeing the men in green take the lead set the vuvuzela blowers in the crowd into a frenzy, but the cacophony of noise was almost curtailed within a couple of seconds as Glory came close to conjuring a leveller.
Dodd-s trickery again earned him space in the box and with the Amazulu defence at sixes and sevens he unselfishly squared the ball rather than shooting, only for his pass to drift just behind the onrushing Harold who would have had the goal at his mercy.
Half-time: Amazulu 1-0 Perth Glory
Perhaps spurred on by that let-off just before the break, the South Africans began the second-half on the front foot with Senamela and Goodman Dlamini both going close to doubling their advantage.
As the hour mark approached, Ferguson began to introduce his substitutes, all of whom eventually enjoyed some game time with the exception of reserve ‘keeper Devon Spence.
With fresh legs on board, Glory duly upped the tempo, forced their way back into the contest and would have got back on level terms had substitute goalkeeper Mbongeni Mzimela not got a firm hand to Miller-s 25-metre free-kick and turned it around the post.
Vukovic was then forced to make an equally smart stop at the other end after the man nicknamed “Cobra”, Ayanda Dlamini, had raced through on goal, before the referee took centre stage by handing a very harsh straight red card to Scott Jamieson following an innocuous-looking altercation with substitute Siyabonga Thwala.
Unsurprisingly given the advanced stage of their pre-season preparations, Amazulu finished strongly, but despite the numerical disadvantage, Glory showed a level of defensive resilience which was well received by coach Ferguson and bodes well for Friday-s showdown with Platinum Stars at the same venue.
Amazulu: 1(Mbhele 37') Perth Glory: 0 Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Perth Glory starting line-up:1.Danny Vukovic, 19.Josh Risdon, 5.Steve Pantelidis, 23.Michael Thwaite, 21.Scott Jamieson, 10.Liam Miller, 7.Jacob Burns, 11.Adrian Zahra, 6.Nicky Ward, 17.Chris Harold, 13.Travis Dodd
Substitutes: 20.Devon Spence (GK), 3.Bas van den Brink, 2.Storm Roux, 15.Brandon O-Neill, 18.Jesse Makarounas, 22.Ndumba Makeche, 9.Dean Heffernan, 12.Tyson Holmes
Perth Glory-s 2012 pre-season tour of South Africa is proudly sponsored by Kaboko Mining, Okap Ventures, Europcar and managed by prominent South African firm SportUnplugged.