at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Orlando Pirates 0
SuperSport United (0) 3
Hartog 63, Mulenga 79, Khenyeza 88
First leg 0-0; SuperSport win 3-0 on aggregate
Let us not start with the madness. Let us start with the beauty.
Just after the hour-mark at Orlando Stadium on Saturday, SuperSport United striker Ashley Hartog spun on the edge of the penalty area and hit a left-footed shot of such glorious power that it left Buccaneers ‘keeper Moeneeb Josephs flailing helplessly to his left.
It was a moment of true quality, and it effectively ended Pirates’ two-year stranglehold on the MTN8, the 10-man Buccaneers left needing two goals to make the final.
Instead, it was Matsatsantsa who rubbed salt into the Ghost’s wounds, substitutes Clifford Mulenga and Mabhudi Khenyeza putting the seal on a well-deserved place in the final.
And then to the madness. Pirates fans’ frustration spilled over in this game, sparked by a red card for Benni McCarthy in the first half, and hitting an unpleasant apex once Khenyeza struck SuperSport’s third, a series of missiles flying onto the pitch.
The repercussions from the Premier Soccer League are sure to be harsh.
Before SuperSport’s flurry of late goals, this semi-final was set to be best remembered for its off-the-ball incidents. In the first leg, Edwin Gyimah and Rooi Mahamutsa had both been sent for an early bath, and here it was the turn of McCarthy.
The Pirates striker had been receiving injections for an inflamed calf ahead of this game, but here it was as if a red mist had been injected into his brain, as McCarthy squared up to SuperSport winger Franklin Cale.
Both were booked, but McCarthy soon had his arm around Cale again, and a raised hand was enough for referee Robert Smith to turn yellow into red. On replay, the decision seemed a little harsh, but that cannot excuse the behaviour of the Pirates fans.
A firework was thrown towards SuperSport goalkeeper Rowen Fernandez, and once Hartog struck, the ire of the supporters increased towards Smith. But the truth is that SuperSport were simply the better side in Orlando, whether against 11 Pirates men or 10.
Even before McCarthy’s red card, they created the better chances, coach Gavin Hunt growing increasingly frustrated as his side fluffed their lines. Pirates were, again, slightly lifeless in attack, for the third game in succession, finding no way past a superbly marshalled SuperSport defence, with Bevan Fransman looking every-inch a capable replacement for Morgan Gould.
Thabo Matlaba did hit the crossbar just before Hartog struck, but generally Pirates are badly in need of some firepower, if they are not to lose their stranglehold on more than just the MTN8.
For SuperSport, this represents a chance to win a second straight knockout trophy, having captured the 2012 Nedbank Cup. They troubled the Buccaneers’ usually reliable back four for the whole evening, and would have been in front in the first half but for poor finishing from Sibusiso Zuma and Nathan Paulse.
And once Hartog struck, they killed the game off with precision. Mulenga tore through the heart of the Pirates defence to double Matsatsantsa’s lead. And then Khenyeza fired home to spark more appalling behaviour from the Pirates fans.
SuperSport’s only blot was that their own tiny fans decided to invade the pitch after the game, which could land them in their own kind of problems with the authorities.