Denis Onyango: Cup finals an ideal platform for goalkeepers to shine

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Denis Onyango leads Mamelodi Sundowns during the Nedbank Cup semifinal against Royal AMPHOTO: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images
Denis Onyango leads Mamelodi Sundowns during the Nedbank Cup semifinal against Royal AMPHOTO: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images


Goalkeepers have become the stars of the show in recent cup finals.

Think of the heroics of Senegal goalkeeper Édouard Mendy when the Teranga Lions beat Egypt in the Afcon final in February.

Think of the Mamelodi Sundowns duo of Denis Onyango and Kennedy Mweene who saved five and four penalties, respectively, en route to the Brazilians annexing their first MTN8 title.

Marumo Gallants goalie King Ndlovu was also the toast of his team when he saved a spot kick and scored the winning penalty that eliminated Orlando Pirates from the Nedbank Cup at the last 16 stage. That feat paved the way for the Limpopo club to reach the final.

On Saturday, Ndlovu and Onyango’s sides, Gallants and Sundowns, will face-off for the R7 million winner-take-all at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Phokeng, outside Rustenburg. The match kicks off at 6pm.

READ: Ndlovu & Onyango: A tale of contrasting campaigners

Although the two goalkeepers did not feature much for their respective teams in the closing stages of the league campaign, they are nonetheless expected to be recalled to complete the job in the Ke Yona Cup.

“It is always good to have a goalkeeper who is focused and on top of his game in a cup final,” Onyango told City Press. “A cup game is a knockout competition where one chance can be the match decider. Yes, goalkeepers have been doing fantastic in cup games but it also happens with strikers.

A striker can score two or three goals in a final and become a hero. But goalkeepers have equally put up outstanding performances in the finals, especially during penalty shoot-outs.

Onyango almost single-handedly helped Sundowns to the MTN8 trophy in the final against Cape Town City in October last year. He saved five penalties during a shoot-out after the game ended 1-1 all in regulation time.

Like in the top eight contest, Sundowns have used different keepers in all the stages of the Nedbank Cup so far, a move Onyango said underlined the depth in quality in the club’s goalkeeping department.

“The MTN8 was fantastic. Kennedy [Mweene] started the journey; Reyaad Pieterse and Ricardo Goss came through – everyone played a part in the MTN8 and of course me coming up in the final and doing the business.”

Meanwhile, the Nedbank Cup final on Saturday will be the third time the Bafokeng Stadium hosts a major domestic club football decider.

It is interesting that Sundowns were part of the previous two finals at the iconic arena in the North West – the Rothmans Cup when they beat Free State Stars (then Qwa Qwa Stars) 2-0 in 1999, and in their 2-0 defeat to Santos in the BP Top8 in 2002.

Sundowns, who are hunting for a treble this season after clinching the league and the MTN8 cup so far, used the Bafokeng stadium for their opening CAF Champions League group home leg.

READ: Former Uganda goalkeeper, Sundowns star Denis Onyango on what he expects from Bafana Bafana

They won 1-0 against Sudanese side Al-Hilal in February. This was after the Loftus Versveld and Lucas Moripe stadiums failed to meet the CAF compliance requirements for Sundowns to play their home matches there.

The 44 000-seater stadium, which officially opened in 1999 as the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace, has not had a professional football club as a tenant since the sale of Platinum Stars in 2018.

Nedbank Cup champions since the tournament was rebranded in 2008

2008:Mamelodi Sundowns

2009: Moroka Swallows

2010: Bidvest Wits

2011: Orlando Pirates

2012: SuperSport United

2013: Kaizer Chiefs

2014: Orlando Pirates

2015: Mamelodi Sundowns

2016: SuperSport United

2017: SuperSport United

2018: Free State Stars

2019: TS Galaxy

2020: Mamelodi Sundowns

2021: Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila


Daniel Mothowagae 

Deputy sports editor

+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park

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