Maru win New Year's Cup Final

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Sunday, 1st January 2017

Grahamstown’s Makana Rhini United Football Club (Maru) was crowned champions of the New Year’s Cup soccer tournament, after they beat Amavarara in the final.

The final, which was part of the New Year’s Cup closing ceremony, took place at JD Dlepu Stadium on Saturday 31 December.

Maru earned themselves a healthy R100 000 winner’s check for the club, which is sure to help the club in future wins, in the upcoming season.

Maru remained unbeaten in their seven fixtures in the tournament which started on 15 December. In their first group stage game, Maru drew 2-2 to young Chiefs, the team would would end up facing in the semi-final again.

They then drew their second group fixture 0-0 with neighbours, City Pirates, before they began their winning ways. They beat MK Academy 2-0 in their last group game to top their group. In the top 16 they beat Archies 3-2, and then beat Motswedi 1-0 to book their spot in the semi-final. The semi-s was the second time Maru would face Young Chiefs, but this time Maru controlled the game to win 4-2 to set up a final with Amavarara.

The final started at a blistering pace with Amavarara controlling everything in the midfield. Maru kept on giving away possession cheaply and putting themselves under unnecessary pressure. It came as no surprise when Amavarara had the first real chance of the game, when Maru defenders were caught ball watching and forced the keeper to come up with a brilliant save.

Maru tried to work their way back into the game but still found it difficult to deal with the skilful opposition midfielders who looked so comfortable on the ball. The water break came as a relief for the home side as they were under enormous pressure. Maru still struggled to find rhythm as they found it difficult to put a few passes together. The home side missed a great chance in one of their rare attacks.

Halftime score 0-0.

In the second half Amavarara started where they left off and took the game to the opponents. One of Amavarara's midfielders was sent off after serious foul play. Maru changed their tactic and tried to take the game to their opponents.

With 10 men Amavarara still had the better of the exchanges and forced Maru to defend. Just 18 minutes from time Maru put together some neat and quick passes crowned by a defence splitting through pass, which found Mzoxolo Rafane who caught Amavarara's defence with his pace to score the opening goal.

The stadium erupted as the home fans could not hide their excitement and ran onto the field overpowering the security guards.

Amavarara responded with a lot of attacks which were desperately defended by the home side, and came close to finding the equaliser on numerous occasions. The home side held on until the final whistle to the delight of many home fans who packed Dlepu, in a great game of football.

Amavarara will go home with their heads held high as they did not embarrass themselves, they gave a good account of themselves.

Maru deserved the cup, especially after looking at the high work rate they showed in the game trying to stop a well-oiled Amavarara machine.

In the third and fourth place play-off, Young Chiefs beat Fairfield Hunting Stars 1-0.

Article by Chris Totobela and Stephen Penney, Grocotts Mail

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