It wasn’t pretty but Orlando Pirates won’t mind a bit because in the end they won a third successive cup final in South African football by beating Mamelodi Sundowns 3-2 on penalties.
Sundowns came into this match as overwhelming favourites.
Man-of the-match and Pirates’ much maligned goalkeeper Sipho Chaine saved three penalties during the shoot-out by Bongani Zungu, Teboho Mokoena and Junior Mendieta.
Penalties had to decide this scrappy match after no team scored a goal in 120 minutes that were far from being a spectacle as both sides struggled to control the ball against a strong gushing wind.
Pirates had come to this match on the back of four defeats on the trot, facing a Sundowns side that was yet to taste a defeat in all competitions this season.
Clearly Bucs coach Jose Riveiro is becoming a cup specialist as this is his third triumph since he arrived in the country at the beginning of last season.
Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena had spoken of his hope to have Brazilian attacker Lucas Costa in this match.
Costa’s failure to recover from injury robbed Sundowns of their usual sharpness and creativity in their attack.
Costa has also scored nine goals in 11 matches he has played for Sundowns since arriving in July and was key Mokwena’s plan.
In Costa’s absence Mokwena had Neo Maaema in support of Peter Shalulile and Themba Zwane but Pirates found it easy to deal with their threat without the presence of Costa.
Sundowns always looked dangerous when they pressed Pirates high up the field and nearly gained a lead as early as the 5th minute when Bucs defender and skipper Tapelo Xoki made a terrible back pass that landed on Peter Shalulile’s path.
The Sundowns striker fed Themba Zwane but Chaine kept his side in the game when he made a brilliant save.
Pirates only clear chance came right at the death when Kermit Erasmus put Monnapule Saleng through but the Bucs winger chose to shoot wide.
Chaine was again the saviour for Pirates eight minutes from time when Marcelo Allende took a powerful pot shot at goal in a moment that Sundowns had the game in their hands.
The windy weather didn’t allow both teams to have to have their normal passing game.
Both teams failed to make 100 passes in the entire first 45 minutes as players battled with accuracy in their passing.
Bucs play maker Patrick Maswanganyi was quiet by his standards and never really gained control of match to help his side in the way he expected to.
Although Pirates didn’t create clear cut chances in the first 45 minutes, they had 60% of the ball and invaded Sundowns danger area on many occasions.
Bucs coach attempted to change things with the introduction of Relebogile Mofokeng and Karim Kimvuidi for Maswanganyi and Zakhele Lepasa.
The wind continued to make life difficult for them at a time Sundowns were pressing hard and throwing numbers up front in search of the opening goal.
Ahead of this match, Riveiro’s three-year contract at Pirates looked safe and sound given the fact that the Spaniard won two domestic cup in his maiden season in South Africa.
But the bad start to the season, which has included being eliminated in the preliminary stages of the Caf Champions League by Botswana minnows Jwaneng Galaxy, look to put Riviero’s future in some doubt, though there’s still plenty to play for this season.
Pirates can still chase Sundowns in the DStv Premiership even though losing two matches in five starts doesn’t paint a good picture for anyone challenging the Brazilians who have won all their eight opening league matches.
The Carling and Nedbank Cup are the two other trophies that Riveiro can still win for Pirates this season, but all will depend on how he manages to rebuild confidence in his charges after a bad patch before yesterday’s remarkable win.
There was a lot of mudslinging and mind games between these sides going to this match, with the highlight being a comment made by Pirates assistant coach Mandla Ncikazi who claimed that Sundowns have benefited from some dubious decision by the referees.
Pirates rivals Chiefs were denied a clear penalty by referee Loxolo Badi in the second leg semifinal in Pretoria.
Had Chiefs been given that spot kick it could have been them who met Pirates in Durban yesterday.
Rebuffing these claims, Ncikazi’s counterpart at Sundowns, Manqoba Mngqithi, tried to reminding everyone that referees have made mistakes that affected Sundowns before and called on everyone not to read much into it because now that those bad calls favoured Sundowns.
But the referee in the final Abongile Tom handled the match with aplomb showing no favours to any team.
But still Sundowns will complain of Tom not giving them a penalty after Bandile Shandu looked to have handled the ball in the box and Chaine appeared to have hacked substitute Thapelo Maseko in the early minutes of extra-time.