No classic, but Bucs will take it

2010-10-04 00:00

THE MTN8 trophy might not have been gained in classic fashion, but after a seven-year dry spell, Orlando Pirates are sure to appreciate a cup arriving in any form, even via the lottery of a penalty shootout.

The Buccaneers broke their trophy barren spell, and a 10-year period without success in a knockout cup, with a 4-2 penalties victory over Moroka Swallows in Saturday night’s final at Moses Mabhida Stadium.

This after a 1-1 stalemate by the end of an extra time period when two notably weary teams barely managed to threaten each other’s goal.

As can so often be the case in knockout competitions, the best football was displayed in the semi-finals.

Swallows’ dramatic, though not error-free, 3-2 victory against Ajax, and Pirates’ focused performance in defeating their old rivals, Kaizer Chiefs, were more worth watching as a spectacle.

The best period of the final was where Pirates were dominating possession and carving openings in the opening half against a nervous Swallows, resulting in Aubrey Mathibe’s foul on Thulasizwe Mbuyane and Daine Klate’s 19th-minute penalty.

In the second half, the Birds tightened up and worked hard, though without showing a great deal in the way of creativity. Bucs couldn’t move up the gear they needed, so it became a stalemate.

This would have suited Pirates for a 1-0 victory had Morgan Shivambu not got up to get a faint header onto Gareth Ncaca’s free-kick and beat Moeneeb Josephs in the 84th minute.

Besides breaking the Bucs’ drought, it was also a first trophy for coach Ruud Krol going into his third season with the Soweto giants.

“Of course, it’s a long time since Pirates won a cup, and that is very important for the club. I am happy that we won this cup,” the Dutchman said.

“I am happy for the president [Irvin Khoza], I am happy for the people who work for the club’s success, and I’m happy of course for the players and the technical staff.

“For the supporters of course, it’s fantastic that we broke that 10-year drought and hopefully there will be more to come.

“In the final I think we got what we deserved.”

Krol defended his decision to bring on midfielder Clifford Ngobeni for striker Ezenwa Otorogu, defending a 1-0 lead with 13 minutes of normal time left, during which Shivambu scored his equaliser.

“We were not defending,” the coach said. “I had to change Mbuyane because he was injured. In the last 10 minutes Otorugu had run out of petrol so I brought Clifford in and pushed Isaac Chansa into a more attacking role.”

Swallows coach Rainer Zobel said his team settled into their gameplan better in the second half.

“In the first half we played the long ball too early, only looking for [Siyabonga] Nomvete. We had no midfield.

“In the second half we did it much better, and I think brought some pressure to Pirates.”

Zobel said it had worked against his team that in extra time Swallows did not have a third substitution to make because injured goalkeeper Aubrey Mathibe had to be replaced halfway through normal time by Greg Etafia.

“You saw the players cramping and having problems with power in extra time,” he said.

“But this is football. In penalty shootouts, too, you need some luck and some nerves. Our experienced players missed their penalties and the young ones’ succeeded.”

Young Bucs defensive midfielder Andile Jali, man of the match for the second MTN game in a row, said Bucs lost their confidence in the last half-hour of normal time. “But we did well — we won the cup, which was what we wanted.”

For Bucs, all four penalty takers — Klate, Katlego Mashego, Isaac Chansa and captain Lucky Lekgwathi with his winning strike — were impressively clinical.

Nomvete, not sharp all night while playing with a heavy, awkward plaster cast on his right wrist, blasted over for Birds, and Kagisho Mashishi had his effort saved by Josephs, with Keegan Richie and Roger Da Costa being successful.

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