Johannesburg – It won’t go down as the “perfect season”, but Orlando Pirates will look back at this campaign with glee after winning two trophies and qualifying for Africa’s elite competition.
Pirates’ latest achievement came on the last day of the season after they beat Sekhukhune United 2-1 in in the Nedbank Cup final to win the crown in front of a sold out Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.
Scenes at Loftus
Scenes at Loftus
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This was Pirates’ second trophy of the season having won the MTN8 late last year, while they had also finished second in the league to qualify for the CAF Champions League.
And while missing out on the league title was their only blemish, coach Jose Riveiro, his technical team and players will be proud of their efforts as they beat the script to amass this success.
Upon his arrival in the SA shores, Riveiro was ridiculed to the level of a “plumber” with few believing that he could turn the team into the menacing side they were this season.
And despite being on the losing side, coach Brandon Truter will be proud of their efforts, having punched above their weights to get this far in the competition, having also finished in the top eight.
Sekhukhune, by virtue of being the Nedbank Cup finalists, have also qualified for the Caf Confederation Cup next season – a feat that should serve as a consolation for this loss.
With this game being the showdown of the season, the two sides were expected to go toe-to-toe in search of the country’s biggest knockout competition crown.
And perhaps with the scoreline reading 1-all at half time, thanks to goals from Sibusiso Vilakazi and Tapelo Xoki, before Terrence Dzvukamanja’s stoppage-time winner ensured the sold-out crowd got their money’s worth, was a full vindication of the expectations.
Pirates kept their favourites’ tag, dominating possession for the better part of the first stanza, but the Ghost was kept quiet in the early stages.
This comes after the fact that Babina Noko sprung an early surprise after a defensive mix-up between Xoki and Nkosinathi Sibisi gave Vilakazi half a chance inside which he made full use of it.
It was a perfect start for the underdogs that the Pirates were forced to chase the game. And they duly replied, with Badra Sangare and his defence keeping their team in the game early on.
Paseko Mako forced the Ivorian keeper into a save that he parried towards the path of Kermit Erasmus whose shot was cleared off the line by Edwin Gyimah before Sangare blocked Thembinkosi Lorch’s effort.
With that move giving the Ghost hope, as they found their voices again, Pirates got a penalty which was converted by captain Xoki on the stroke of half-time.
Victor Letsoalo lay on the floor inside his box against his box before Lorch cleverly or mischievously played the ball around him until he tried to grab the ball, resulting in a penalty call by referee Thando Ndzandzeka.
That penalty decision saw emotions flare up, with Sekhukhune’s bench up in arms heading into the break against Ndzandzeka, while coach Brandon Truter also received a yellow card just before the break.
And with Sekhukhune using the interval to wash Sangare’s goals with their ‘juju’, they returned with more vigour in the second half – only to be stopped in their tracks by final balls.
But it was the Pirates who left it late to win their second trophy of the season after Monnapule Saleng teed up Dzvukamanja who guided a floating ball past Sangare to send this stadium into a frenzy.