Da Gama fumes after Highlands throw away two-goal lead

Highlands Park head coach Owen Da Gama reacts on the touchline during a Absa Premiership match against Orlando Pirates at the Orlando Stadium, Soweto on August 4 2018.
Highlands Park head coach Owen Da Gama reacts on the touchline during a Absa Premiership match against Orlando Pirates at the Orlando Stadium, Soweto on August 4 2018.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Owen Da Gama was left lost for words after Highlands Park conceded late goals in added time to see their two-goal lead evaporate in a thrilling 2-2 draw against visitors Black Leopards.

The Lions of the North roared to a first-half lead with a wonder goal from Luckyboy Mokoena and looked to be coasting to victory after substitute Ricardo Williams made it 2-0 in the 87th minute against the run of play.

Sensing a comeback from Leopards‚ who enjoyed more than 90% of the support in the packed Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa on Thursday‚ Da Gama was hopping mad on the touchline.

He screamed instructions to his players to slow the game down and protect their comfortable lead in the face of an unrelenting pressure from the visitors.

But Da Gama’s screams fell on deaf ears. After the fourth official had raised the board to show there were only six minutes remaining in the match‚ Leopards clawed their way back when Themba Ndlovu and Mwape Musonda scored two goals in quick succession to send their supporters into wild celebrations.

“I’m very very disappointed. Very disappointed‚” said Da Gama after the match.

“I don’t even know what to say. I’m very disappointed. We could have wrapped up this game with five minutes to go.

“We know that a 2-0 lead is a very dangerous score‚ but I was very disappointed in the leadership on the field.

“You know we’ve played football at a very high level and coached at a very high level and guys‚ with five minutes to go‚ you come together as a team and you say come on guys‚ let’s kill off the game.

“We could have beaten them but [we let it slip] with six minutes of added time remaining. You can’t blame the referee you can’t blame nobody. You’ve got to take responsibility as a team‚” said Da Gama.

Promoted Highlands have two points from two games having also drawn their opening match 1-1 away at Orlando Pirates on the weekend but the draw against Leopards left Da Gama so angry he stopped short of saying he may soon have to wield the axe.

“As I said‚ guys‚ after the Pirates game‚ we have rewarded a lot of players from the NFD to come up to the PSL. We have rewarded them‚” the coach said.

“Some of them are going to be able to step up‚ some might not be able to step up. This is where you separate men from boys.”

Da Gama’s team now have two weeks’ break to regroup and go back to the proverbial drawing board before their next match‚ a crunch away encounter at champions Mamelodi Sundowns.

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