Old Mutual crowned Knockout kings

Old Mutual players celebrate victory after beating defending champions Ajax Cape Town 1-0 to lift the Engen u-17 Knockout Challenge trophy in Parow at the weekend.

A tremendous team effort saw Old Mutual Academy beating defending champions Ajax Cape Town 1-0 to lift the Engen under-17 Knockout Challenge trophy, in Parow, at the weekend.

Captain Brooklyn Poggenpoel’s no-nonsense defence and the midfield exploits of Kyle Carelse and Peter Ketana were key characteristics of Old Mutual Academy’s play as they marched to victory.

The newly-crowned Knockout kings beat defending champs Ajax Cape Town 1-0 in a tense final on Sunday, courtesy of a late strike by goal poacher Azhar Abrahams.

Poggenpoel’s reading of opposition attacks was second to none. The left back, from Thornton, also displayed some impressive distribution ability and was a shoe-in for winning the award for tournament’s best defender.

Wearing legendary numbers – 10 and 15 respectively – Carelse and Ketana caused all sorts of problems for their opponents.

In the semi-final, for instance, they tore hosts Vasco da Gama’s engine room apart with their decisive run and almost telepathic understanding of their teammates’ moves.

They were at it again in Sunday’s final, forcing Ajax’s highly organised midfield to chase shadows for most of the match.

Whenever Ajax, led by player of the tournament, Sonwabile Mfecane, threatened to penetrate the midfield, Old Mutual’s defensive wall, marshalled by their inspirational captain, was in no giving mood.

Old Mutual will now play in the national championships against other regional winners in Gauteng, in October.

Carelse, arguably one of the best players in the tournament, said the final proved to be tricky as both teams played a similar brand of football. The difference between the two, he said, was that his side was more hungry.

“We prepared well for this tournament and the coaches kept telling us that we have what it takes to win the tournament. We played as a team and fought for each other throughout the competition and this is the result,” he said.

His teammate Ketana concurred.

“Our coach told us to stick to the basics and not try do fancy things with the ball.

“That’s what we did and it paid off. Winning this competition means a lot to us and we’ll be inspired to do even better,” he said.

Old Mutual Academy cruised past the group stages, playing to a goalless draw against Avendale Athletico, beating YSD Macassar 3-0 and Parkwood Southampton 4-0 to book their spot in the quarter-finals.

They beat Maties 4-2 to set up a semi-final date with hosts Vasco whom they beat 3-0 before overcoming Ajax in the final.

This is just the beginning, said coach Marius Fourie, who described the final against Ajax as “nerve-racking”.

“Our plan was to keep the ball on the ground and frustrate them.

“We did that but they also had their chances.

“The aim was to go as far as possible in this competition and this is how far we went,” said Fourie.