Pirates retain R8m trophy

2011-09-10 21:28

This cup final was bound to be decided by a stroke of brilliance. And such brilliance came from a player – relatively small in frame – who is steadily rising in stature since he graduated to the Premiership just under two seasons ago.

For almost the entire game, midfielder Oupa Manyisa did not play the game he is used to, but his 107th scorcher nonetheless engraved his name into history as the player who helped Pirates to a successful defence of the MTN8 Cup last night – and a third straight victory over bitter rivals Chiefs in a space of two months.

Bucs coach Julio Leal had never lost to Chiefs since he came to these shores – via AmaZulu and Moroka Swallows – and it seemed his luck wasn’t to run out any time last night.

Pirates thought the loot was in the bag when Bongani Ndulula headed home at the death but a slight push on Chiefs’ defender Dominic Isaacs spoilt what could have been a clincher at the perfect moment.

Chiefs had their own near misses too, with Sthembiso Ngcobo forcing a good save from goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs 10 minutes before regulation time.

The similarities were uncanny as to how the two sides approached their game in the R8-million winner-takes-all contest last night.

The game was not just too tactical – both sides lacked creativity.

Pirates’ normally reliable central midfield duo of Manyisa and Andile Jali did not showcase their usual arrogance but had their work cut out for them by Tinashe Nengomasha who, together with Reneilwe Letsholonyane, equally gave little away.

Letsholonyane – who came in for Lucky Baloyi – returned to the starting 11 for the first time since he limped off during the Carling Cup between the two sides at the same venue on July 30.

Nengomasha, in particular, won every tackle in a move that came his way and the stout Zimbabwean was always a threatening force even in the Amakhosi attacks.

It was his presence in the middle of the park that had sparked interesting duels, but the normally overlapping fullbacks were restricted in their movements.

Attempts at goal were hard to come by and that was justified by the substitution of the opposing strikers Lehlohonolo Majoro and Ndumiso Mabena early in the second half.

On a rare occasion, Chiefs’ leftback Jimmy Jambo bustled down the left flank and found Majoro with a flawless cross, but the striker headed wide.

However, the striker’s snap header towards the half-time break was one of the rare attempts at goal that the 91 525 crowd witnessed in the opening stanza.

Similarly, Bucs defender Siyabonga Sangweni also posted his side’s first real attempt at goal but his headed effort, 15 minutes into the second half, sailed over the bar.

Although the two keepers were hardly tested in the entire first 45 minutes, Chiefs’ Itumeleng Khune heaved a huge sigh of relief after Pirates’ Thulasizwe Mbuyane had failed to capatilise on the Bafana Bafana keeper’s howler after the half-hour mark.

Match officials are rarely praised but referee Victor Hlungwani was never overwhelmed by the occasion. He deserves praise for his guts for standing by his decisions, including disallowing Ndulula’s goal, and correctly so.

The capacity crowd, and the camaraderie all round, proved beyond doubt that regardless of how many times these two giants face off, the Soweto Derby is still a premium fixture in the domestic soccer calendar. 

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