Chiefs snatch unlikely victory

2008-09-24 00:00

ONLY Mamelodi Sundowns will know how they contrived to not win last night’s MTN 8 final, in which Kaizer Chiefs were 4-3 penalties winners after the match ended 0-0 after extra time.

Sundowns were dominant almost throughout, struck the woodwork, missed an open goal and countless other clearcut chances, but could not score. And once the final went to penalties, it seemed inevitable Chiefs would emerge unlikely winners of the R8million first prize.

Amakhosi maintained their dominance over Sundowns in cup finals, with seven wins out of seven stretching back to Downs’ formation in 1985. Even Chiefs, though, must surely admit that they pulled a rabbit from a hat last night, and then some.

Goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was the hero of the shootout once again, saving Esrom Nyandoro’s second penalty for Downs to put the Pretoria team under pressure. Much like a somewhat flat final in which neither side, especially Amakhosi, could get into top gear, the shootout still saw Onismor Bhasera blast wide for Chiefs, then Thando Mngomeni for Downs, before Reneilwe Letsholonyane sank the winning penalty.

Sundowns controlled much of the first half. The Brazilians created their first clearcut chance in the 10th minute when Derrick Spencer’s header skimmed the crossbar from a free-kick swung in by Lerato Chabangu.

For Chiefs, Jimmy Tau’s ball into the area was mis-kicked by Thuso Phala when the winger should have got a shot on target. Midway through the half, Chabangu’s 50 metre pass picked out Josta Dladla free in the area, who attempted to slide the ball to Surprise Moriri instead of shooting, but the pass was just out of reach for the Sundowns striker.

Sundowns had two good chances moments into the second half. Moriri’s touch set up Nyandoro in favoured territory on the edge of the area, but his shot was well saved by Khune. Then Dladla’s header went wide across goal from Shere Lekgothoane’s cross from the left.

Both sides continued their guarded probing attacks, though increasingly it was Sundowns with the greater share of possession and territory. But, apart from the sprightly Lerato Chabangu, Downs lacked an injection of pace in the final third to create the killer breakthrough.

Former Chiefs star Collins Mbesuma, the 35-goal hero of 2004/05, made his debut up-front for the Brazilians, though still looked half-a-yard off the pace after years of inactivity in Europe, and did not create the necessary punch to dent Chiefs’ back four.

Despite this, introducing midfielder Benedict Vilakazi for Mbesuma with 12 minutes to go, thus making Surprise Moriri the lone striker, did not seem to be the solution by coach Trott Moloto to Downs’ goal-creating problems.

Some of Chiefs coach Muhsin Ertugral’s decisions seemed no less strange, with wingers Phala and Siphiwe Tshabalala spending much of the evening on the wrong flanks, and the creative David Mathebula utilised from too deep.

Finally Sundowns’ slow possession build-up play came to something with four minutes to go, when Chabangu’s chip put Dladla through on the right, who squared to Moriri, but the striker somehow contrived to sky his finish from three metres, with Khune completely beaten. With that sort of finishing, the game was destined for extra time.

Almost as proof that Sundowns would not score, Vilakazi’s 104th-minute cross was knocked down by substitute Dario Monteiro to Mbulelo Mabizela, who blasted over. Seconds later Monteiro turned crosser, as Vilakazi’s half-volley flew just over the bar. Chiefs were at full stretch, and Mabizela blasted over again just before the extra-time halfway whistle.

Monteiro’s shot was pushed for a corner by Khune, and Moriri’s cannoned off the back of a defender, as still the Brazilians pushed for a goal.

In the dying moments, Chiefs almost snatched an unlikely victory. First Mokete Tsotetsi’s header from Bhasera’s cross from deep was kept out at full stretch by Brian Baloyi. Then substitute Mandla Masango was through on goal, but again he was thwarted by Baloyi.

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