Even with all Kaizer Chiefs’ big guns back in the big match, Amakhosi fell short, leaving coach Giovanni Solinas cursing as he reflected on what could have been.
That was so close!
This is what Kaizer Chiefs coach Giovanni Solinas would probably be saying as he reflects on yesterday’s match after his side bombed out of yet another cup competition since he took charge at the start of the season.
Prior to yesterday’s Telkom Knockout semifinal against their Soweto rivals, Orlando Pirates had rarely advanced in cup competitions at the expense of Amakhosi – but Justin Shonga changed all that.
When it seemed the match was headed for extra time – as has become the norm between the two powerhouses in cup clashes – the Zambian striker capitalised on a lapse in concentration from the Chiefs’ defence to send Pirates to the final.
Shonga has been getting some stick for not bringing his scoring boots from his national team to the club, but yesterday he delivered the goods with just four minutes remaining.
So special was his strike that the victory maintained Bucs’ dominance over Chiefs, who have not beaten Pirates in 11 official meetings.
For Solinas, the defeat – although a bit unfair on him – will only increase pressure as Chiefs have endured a barren three years without any silverware.
The Italian cut an animated figure throughout in a game he was desperately hoping would avenge the defeat by the same opponents in the league last month.
Defender Mario Booysen came close with two headers in the closing stages, with his second attempt being stopped on the goal-line by Jackson Mabokgwane in virtually the last move of the game.
The pace of the game was intense in the opening half, with both sides teasing each other relentlessly.
It was just a matter of time before the deadlock was broken and it was Pirates who pulled off a smash-and-grab act when they scored through Thembinkosi Lorch in the 13th minute, even though it was Chiefs who looked like they would sting first.
For the better part of the opening quarter, Amakhosi enjoyed some interesting interchanges, with Lebogang Manyama, Khama Billiat and Dumisani Zuma central to their build-up phase.
At this point, the Buccaneers could only absorb the early pressure and hit on the counter-attack, and one such move resulted in Vincent Pule placing a well-calculated pass behind the Chiefs’ defence for Lorch to smack a first-time shot past Itumeleng Khune into the Amakhosi goal.
The goal spurred the Buccaneers on and they then assumed slight control of the game, but some poor defending brought Chiefs right back in when Leonardo Castro latched on to Billiat’s floated pass to squeeze the ball past Mabokgwane.
While the capacity crowd enjoyed the end-to-end stuff, the flow of play was often interrupted by dirty tackles, and Pule was the first to go into referee Phillip Tiyani’s book for a late challenge on Zuma just four minutes into the game.
More players were booked during the game, with Lorch, Happy Jele and Willard Katsande also shown yellow cards.
The second half did not offer the same fierce confrontations, except for a few half chances that saw man of the match Xola Mlambo and Shonga close to extending Bucs’ lead.
Amakhosi had their own slim chances, but the Bucs’ rearguard held firm.
There were notable changes in both teams from the ones that last faced off in the league a month ago.
Bucs coach Milutin Sredojevic finally handed Mabokgwane a rare start in the derby ahead of Siyabonga Mpontshane and the keeper was one of four alterations to the Bucs’ side that won the Absa Premiership 2-1 at FNB Stadium on October 27.
Chiefs’ makeup had just two changes, with Manyama and George Maluleka starting yesterday. But even with their big guns all back in the big match, they fell short.