Santos fairytale continues with Top 8 glory

The Santos fairy tale continued at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace on Saturday, where the underdogs from the Cape scored a deserved 2-0 win over 10-man Sundowns in a fast flowing BP Top Eight Cup final.

Santos, who lost coach Gordon Igesund to neighbours Ajax Cape Town after he guided them to the Castle Premiership title at the end of last season, have now won three titles in successive seasons. They won the Bob Save Super Bowl in 2001, the league last season and now started this season the way they finished last term by becoming the first side from Cape Town to win the Top Eight Cup.

All credit to new Santos caretaker coach Boebie Solomons, who has done a brilliant job this season and looks set to be given the coaching hot seat on a more permanent basis.

It was a thorough team effort. Santos did everything right. They played as a team and defended in numbers when Sundowns tried to apply pressure. Santos, known as the "People's Team", went home with the R1-million prize, as well as the glittering trophy. The disappointing Brazilians earned R600 000 as runners-up. It was the fourth time that Sundowns have lost in the Top Eight final. The Mamelodi side have won the trophy twice.

It was simply not Sundowns' day. They failed to rise to the occasion and when they did the woodwork saved Santos and disaster struck in the 60th minute when substitute Carlo Scott was sent off for a bad foul on Tyrone Arendse by referee Ace Ncobo.

Solomons said afterwards: "After going 2-0 we made sure by keeping it tight. All credit to the players, who were magnificent."

Sundowns coach Viktor Bondarenko sportingly congratulated Santos: "They were the better side and deserved to win."

Downs started off well and their dangerous striker Daniel Mudau shot wide as early as the third minute, with the first shot in anger. But it was Santos dangerman Jean-Marc Ithier who stunned Downs when he outjumped defender Craig Bianchi to head home the opening goal in the 13th minute after a great cross from Jomo Solomons from the left flank. But the veteran Mauritian international striker was forced to leave the battle in the 26th minute when he suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by David Notoane.

Santos goalkeeper Andre Arendse did well to cut out a dangerous cross from Mudau a minute after the opening goal as Downs tried to get back into the game. Then the diminutive striker was unlucky when his shot cannoned off the post in the 25th minute with Arendse well beaten. The Bafana Bafana number one did well in the 27th minute when he snuffed out a shot from Tumelo Mofokeng.

Bondarenko replaced Mohale Nausareb with Lovers Mohlala and defender Fabian McCarthy for striker Ishmael Maluleke to add more punch. But that move failed to spark any life into Sundowns.

Santos sealed their first ever Top Eight in the 41st minute when David Mabeta rounded the defence, and almost lost the ball before managing to pass to Fees Moloi, who blasted home past a helpless Ronnie Kanalelo in goal to make it 2-0.

In the second stanza Arendse again proved his worth with another save off Mudau in the 49th minute. Then on the hour Scott was given his marching orders. Arendse showed his experience when he plucked the ball from Michael Manzini in the 76th minute. Then a minute later Moloi missed a sitter.

Santos showed that they were not content to sit back, and it was Kanalelo who made two successive saves from Moloi and substitute Sebastien Bax in the 90th minute.

It was a great defensive display from Santos who gave nothing away and ran out deserving winners. - Sapa


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