Otago and Lusaka Academy played out a goalless draw at Parker Avenue, Portrush before Otago triumphed 5-4 in a thrilling penalty shoot-out.
All in all, the game was a scrappy affair throughout. The first half consisted of a few half-chances for Lusaka. Most of their good play involved the physically imposing striker Nyezenjani Jere, who flashed a header wide and poked the ball off-target after keeper Fergus Connolly spilled a shot. The Zambians looked the more likely team to score as George Nsofwa saw his free-kick palmed behind and Gideon Miyanda hit the cross-bar from a tight angle. They also had a number of headed opportunities from set pieces but all failed to test Connolly. Otago’s only real opening came at the very start of the first half after Ben Happs was put through on goal but was closed down by the on rushing Lusaka keeper.
The second half was more equal but the match was still lacking a piece of quality play to break the deadlock. Miyanda dragged wide from the edge of the box a couple of minutes in before Anton Fitzgerald blazed high over the bar after an inch-perfect through ball from Ben O’Farrell at the other end. Fitzgerald was denied an opportunity to make amends by a last ditch tackle from Nsofwa soon after. There were no more chances of note and it turned into a game of pinball as the clock ticked down, with both teams guilty of giving the ball away carelessly. But there were to be no more goals and the match was to be decided by a shoot-out.
Joackim Musakanya and Tom Milton scored the first two penalties for Lusaka and Otago respectively. Ngosa Njunzui tucked his spot-kick away before Emrys McNabb stepped up for the New Zealanders. He was forced to retake his penalty twice as the Lusaka keeper received a yellow card for moving off his line. McNabb missed his first two attempts before firing in at the third time of asking. The shoot-out continued with both teams number 7’s converting- Miyanda for Lusaka and George McCall for Otago. Nandie Tembo then became the first player to miss as Connolly produced a great save to take Otago a step closer to the Bowl final. Jack Short was the next to net for Otago and Blessing Kasonteka Sikazwg scored the Africans last penalty. So it was down to Kai Paetz to put the New Zealand side through and he confidently rammed his penalty into the corner.
Otago had won but that wasn’t the end of the drama as Njunzui and Kwalela Kwalela were both sent off contesting some of the decisions made by the referee during the spot-kicks. They will be suspended for Lusaka’s third/fourth place playoff against County Down in Ballymoney . Otago progress to the final where they will meet OC Blues in Ballymena.
Report by Craig Latimer