Stellenbosch Football Club

Barker remains proud despite Nedbank Cup exit

Football 2024 Nedbank Cup Semifinal Stellenbosch Fc V Mamelodi Sundowns Danie Craven Stadium

Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker remains proud of his side’s effort after falling to a narrow 2-1 defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns in Sunday’s Nedbank Cup semi-final clash.

For the second consecutive season, Stellies fell agonizingly short of reaching the Nedbank Cup final after goals from Khuliso Mudau and Thembinkosi Lorch earned Mamelodi Sundowns a 2-1 win in their last-four encounter at Danie Craven Stadium.

Read | Brave Stellies fall to Sundowns in Nedbank Cup semi-finals

Speaking following the tightly-contested affair, Stellies head coach Steve Barker shared his pride at the Maroons’ efforts against the pre-match favourites and revealed that he would use the performance and result to measure his side’s ambitions of continental qualification

“Firstly, congratulations to Sundowns. They continue to show why they are such a respected team, not only in South Africa but on the continent and we wish them well for the final,” Barker said.

“They really started well in the first 10 or 15 minutes and played with a lot of energy and movement. We were stuck between how much to press them and how to take control away but they were able to find spaces out wide with Mudau and [Marcelo] Allende on the left.

“They broke our lines quite comfortably and put us under pressure, but then I felt we slowly got ourselves back into the game once we had figured that out.

“But, when you play a team that’s playing continental football, you learn certain lessons. We had Fawaaz [Basadien] injured and they continued to play, worked the ball to our right-hand side where Fawaaz was no longer in position, and took their goal and the lead.

“It was a harsh lesson to learn, but they probably deserved to go into the break with the lead. I don’t think we played a bad first half, we were decent enough and created some opportunities, but we came out with a lot more spirit, aggression, and intensity in the second half.

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“We got a bit of confidence and worked ourselves into a position where we started asking them questions and putting them on the back foot. Their second goal came when we were in a really good space and then they missed their penalty. Three-nil would have been game over but it left us with a chance at two-nil.

“We continued to press and played with real determination to get ourselves back in the game, and we got a goal, but I think we just left it too late. If we had scored with another five or ten minutes remaining then we could have given them some real problems at the end of the game.

“I’m really proud of our time today and this is the benchmark. We want to be playing on the continent ourselves, but we still have work to do in the league to get there, but it was a good gauge to see where we are as a football club against a team like Sundowns with the crowd and atmosphere we had.

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“I believe, and confidently say, that we are on the right track. If we can push Sundowns the way we did, it’s a good sign for us, but it wasn’t meant to be. We gave a valiant effort but it just wasn’t enough.”

Sunday’s result also saw the end of Stellies’ 25-match unbeaten run across all competitions, although Barker’s troops could still make it 20 games unbeaten in the league specifically when they host AmaZulu in the DStv Premiership this Wednesday.

Kick-off for that match is at 19h30 and tickets are on sale for just R20.00 from Webtickets and Pick n Pay outlets.