Bucs’ make Telkom Knockout final

2013-11-23 21:13

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Yet again, extra time was needed to separate Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United, but Andile Jali’s goal made sure the penalty lottery was avoided as they booked a place in the Telkom Knockout final.

Pirates’ superior bench strength came through for them but a better team will punish their inability to convert goal-scoring chances.

The last time the two teams met, Pirates needed a penalty shoot-out to beat United during the semifinal of the MTN8 but Jali came to the rescue with nine minutes to go.

Pirates find themselves in a third consecutive Cup final after the MTN8 and the CAF Champions League.

The question is: will it be third time lucky for the Buccaneers after losing both finals to Platinum Stars and Egyptian giants Al Ahly, respectively?

Pirates fans will be hoping for silverware after coming close on two occasions.

It was an electrifying game characterised by excellent surges down the flanks that kept the fullbacks very busy, but true to South African football, first touches let the players down.

Tlou Segolela was the biggest letdown, wasting the hard work of his midfielders with one of the most atrocious first?touches.

Why Roger De Sa continuously picks him to start is a mystery, but with Kermit Erasmus’ late withdrawal, there was no one else to service the right flank.

One of the biggest lessons Pirates seemed to have taken from their CAF safari was tight marking, which squeezed United’s industrious midfield.

One of their downfalls was casual passing at the back, with one such pass leading to Mame Niang’s opener after some excellent work by Thuso Phala down the left flank.

With the attacking menace posed by Phala on the left and Sameehg Doutie on the right, lapses were going to be punished but the Buccaneers were able to keep their shape at the back.

United toiled manfully in the hot Atteridgeville sun, with George Maluleka being at the heart of everything creative, but Pirates had the better midfield structure through their trio of Jali, Oupa Manyisa and Thandani Ntshumayelo.

The quality ball they fought for was spat back in their faces by some abject finishing by Segolela and Lennox Bacela.

Whatever was said at half-time stung the visitors as it only took them a minute to equalise through Manyisa, an effort that left the solid United defence dumbstruck. This was Manyisa’s second goal in the tournament.

The goal prompted wave upon wave of Pirates’ attack but the quality of their play in the final third left a lot to be desired.

The majority of the Pirates team were left perplexed by their inability to finish off simple chances, and twice United nearly punished them.

David Mathebula’s free kick brushed the crossbar with Senzo Meyiwa beaten, while Niang’s textbook header was ruled offside.

United had their own heart in their mouth for a moment, but Rowen Fernandez, who came on for Ronwen Williams, showed that he could be relied on to keep his team in the game.

The young Williams limped off with what looked like a groin strain and could not continue in the game.

Veteran Fernandez gamely kept Pirates at bay during extra time with a string of superb saves, but there was nothing he could do when Collins Mbesuma’s sublime touch put Jali, who was later rewarded with a man of the match award, into space.

It sent the baying crowd into delirium and to Cup final cloud nine.

Pirates withstood United’s onslaught towards the end of the game as the home side piled on more pressure, searching for the equaliser.

United defender Mor Diouf could have done better had his first touch not let him down and Jele came to Pirates’ rescue with few minutes remaining.

But in the end, Pirates hung on for their second victory over Matsatsantsa this season.

It seems Pirates’ good run in the Champions League will rub off in the domestic fixtures.

They next play Maritzburg United away on Wednesday before hosting Bloemfontein Celtic on Saturday in league games as they begin to make up for time lost.

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