Coaches expect tight Cup final

2008-12-11 00:00

IF the two coaches are to be believed, then tomorrow night’s much-hyped Telkom Knockout final between Orlando Pirates and Ajax Cape Town at Chatsworth Stadium could be a typically tight, tactical game of cup final football.

With free-flowing action and plenty of goals scored right up until the semi-final stages, there has been huge interest in tomorrow’s match-up between two of South Africa’s exponents of cultured carpet football.

Ajax prevailed 3-2 over Free State Stars in their end-to-end semi in East London, while Pirates slickly dispensed of 10-man Bloemfontein Celtic 3-0 in Chatsworth.

With a healthy 41 goals scored in open play in 14 matches (2,9 goals per game), fans could be forgiven for expecting more of the same tomorrow.

But by the talk of Ajax coach Craig Rosslee and Bucs counterpart Ruud Krol, both flown in for a pre-final press conference at the Elangeni Hotel in Durban yesterday, a more cautious approach could be expected in the final.

“Of course finals are not often nice finals,” said Dutch legend Krol. “Most of the time it is a good performance but not really good football. But I hope that it will be a fantastic final.”

Rosslee said: “All finals are fiercely contested and it doesn’t always make for attractive football.

A moment of individual brilliance will probably win the game and its a question of which team will want it more on the night.”

Ajax have been unsuccessful in their attempt to reverse the yellow card, and suspension from the final, to influential Brazilian defender Eduardo Ferreira from the Capetonians’ 1-0 league victory over Bucs at Johannesburg Stadium on Saturday night.

Ferreira was booked for diving as a full-strength Ajax beat a Pirates team in which Krol opted to rest several players on yellow cards, but Ajax maintain the defender simply slipped on a greasy surface.

“Fifa rules say you can reverse a decision for mistaken identity, but not when a ruling was made in error,” Rosslee said, adding he has faith in Ferreira’s replacement at the back, Martin Carelse.

“I’ve got to focus on the situation and the players at hand. I believe in the players, and that’s why they are in the squad, and they have to go out and do the job.

“I feel sorry for Ferreira that he is not in the final because he has played in every game for us, and he’s a passionate player.”

With Abdul Ebrahim sending off the wrong player in the Pirates-Celtic semi-final, referees have been in sharp focus in the build-up to the final, but Rosslee said he is hopeful of a good performance from the match officials tomorrow.

“I don’t think we’ll be concerned because the game’s in HD [high definition] and we should have a clear view of everything,” the coach joked.

“And look, the referees are only as good as their assistants, and I actually felt sorry for the ref [Ebrahim] from the Pirates game against Celtic, because he was incorrectly advised by the fourth official.”

The different approaches of the two teams to last week’s league dress rehearsal could prove crucial. While Ajax won but lost Ferreira, Pirates lost but protected key players, including striker Gilbert Mushangazhike and, most importantly, match-winner playmaker Teko Modise.

“I had a few problems before the last game against Ajax,” Krol said. “I tried to play with a team that I thought could win the game, but we made a big defensive mistake in the second half and we were punished for it.

“We have tried to do everything to prepare the team as well as possible for the final and we have had no problems.

“Only [Innocent] Mdledle and [Thulasizwe] Mbuyane are out of contention because they have broken bones in the foot.”

Tickets are available at Computicket, with just 4 700 left by yesterday morning.

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