Crocs leave Pirates in a puddle

2013-09-30 00:00

THERE were bodies strewn all over a drenched Moses Mabhida pitch after 120 minutes failed to separate Orlando Pirates and Platinum Stars in Saturday’s MTN 8 final, but it was the underdogs from the North West province who held their nerve in a penalty shoot-out that produced an amateurish display from the Soweto giants.

Stars may have been bossed for the latter stages of normal time, but their defensive resilience was enough to keep out a late barrage from Pirates and force a 1-1 draw before extra time failed to produce another goal.

Rooi Mahamutsa, Ndumiso Mabena and Lennox Bacela then all missed the target — the latter two horribly so — as Bucs slumped to a 3-1 defeat in the shootout to gift Stars their first major title since the 2006 Telkom Knock-out.

Earlier, Stars had taken a first-half lead through a Robert Ng’ambi header before substitute Thabo Matlaba levelled matters with a sublime long range effort that left Stars ’keeper Siyabonga Mpontshane motionless with just six minutes remaining.

The wet weather wasn’t conducive to attractive football and both sides struggled to string passes together for large periods of the match.

“They say that crocodiles operate best in the wet, and that was the case today,” joked an elated Stars coach Allan Freese, referring to his side’s nickname (Dikwena/crocodiles).

Pirates boss Roger de Sa also felt that the relentless rain was worth mentioning.

“I don’t think the conditions were great. We are quite a lightweight side and the pitch was heavy on the legs. But it was the same for both sides and congratulations must go to Stars,” he said.

Freese, who took over from outgoing coach Cavin Johnson at the start of the season, had no problem labelling Saturday night’s triumph as the finest moment of his career.

“It is really a great moment for me. I didn’t expect to be sitting here. It is also a great moment for the supporters and the club owners.

“People have seen now that we can play football so they must come out and support,” said Freese, who has been told that his tenure at Stars is temporary until his contract expires next year.

“When you sign that contract, you sign two: one to say that you are hired and one to say that you are fired,” quipped the coach on the possibility of his latest success earning him a more permanent deal at Stars.

“I think that matter is for the club to decide. For us now it is important to stay grounded. The season is still long, and once we get complacent we will get in trouble.”

The Pirates-dominated Mabhida crowd had been growing increasingly frustrated with referee Robert Smith after the 42-year-old had waved away numerous penalty claims from the supporters, but De Sa backed the official.

“I thought he [Smith] had a good game. There were one or two errors but there were no real hassles. I don’t think it [the refereeing] had any effect on the result at all.”

On the poor quality of his side’s penalty kicks, De Sa could do nothing but smile.

“Before any cup game we will spend time practising our penalties. I know it didn’t look like it tonight, but we do,” he said.

“We had more of the possession and chances throughout the game. But it all counts for nothing if you don’t put the ball in the back of the net.”

Both sides will stay in a knock-out frame of mind as next up on the domestic calendar is the first round of Telkom Knock-out fixtures. Stars host Maritzburg United this Sunday, while Pirates travel to Mpumalanga Black Aces on Tuesday, October 8.

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