Last year’s Bayhill under-19 Premier Cup quarter-finalists Milano United qualified for this year’s edition following a convincing performance in the last round of qualifiers in Mitchell’s Plain at the weekend.
The side didn’t have much problems qualifying for the tournament proper as they topped group B – which also had D&G Orient, Santos and Mitchell’s Plain Clinic of Excellence (MPCE) – with eight points after recording two wins and a scoring draw. They scored three goals and conceded one in the process.
The Grassy Park side kicked their qualifying campaign off with a 1-0 win against MPCE on Saturday before drawing 1-all with D&G Orient.
That meant they had to collect maximum points in their last match against Santos, if they were to book their spot in the Easter Weekend spectacle.
That’s what their did, winning by an odd goal, to book their spot in Belhar.
Coach Rafieq Taylor said his players’ fitness levels and discipline played a big role in helping the side cope with the demands of those qualifying matches.
This, he said, was because the players had the presence of mind to find ways of working their way out of trouble when their opponents cornered them.
Their play was built on a solid defensive foundation whey their proved to be stingy in terms giving away goalscoring chances. And, that is why their opponents were only able to score one goal against them.
“Santos, Orient and MPCE are good teams and that meant we had to be alert all the time. We were well equipped for the challenge and I am pleased by the way the players approached those matches,” he said.
“We knew that we were going to come up against quality opposition hence our preparations started way back in December. That worked well for us as the players’ work ethic proved to be of top class.”
Taylor said they were aware that the side, despite playing well, was not able to go all the way in last year’s tournament proper.
That, he said, was something they looked at and worked on ways of rectifying. He also noted that the current group of players – some of whom are playing in the ABC Motsepe League – have enough experience to see the side going all the way.
Playing some of the best football in last year’s competition, Milano were unlucky to go down 4-3 on penalties in their quarter final encounter against Bidvest Wits.
Milano was convincing prior to that match, having qualified for the knockout stages as joint winners of their group with Ajax Cape Town, with seven points having won two and drew one of their three group matches.
They went on to beat Old Mutual Academy 2-1 in the last round of 16 before losing to Wits.
Acknowledging that the competition will be even tougher this year, coach Rafieq Taylor said the plan wa to double their efforts come Easter weekend.
“Every year, we always set ourselves targets and this year is no exception. We will go there and play to win every match. Our players are disciplined and I’m sure they will do even better this time around,” he said.