After watching his boys breathe life into a heartbreaking season on Saturday night, Orlando Pirates coach Vladimir Vermezovic feels they can erase the painful memories of losing three cup finals this term by claiming the Nedbank Cup crown.
The Buccaneers were dogged in their 2-1 victory over Mam-elodi Sundowns in their Nedbank Cup quarter-final tie, showing no signs of the fatigue they’ve been going on about, to edge their opponents for the second time at the same venue this season.
Daine Klate scored the winner just after the hour, after Sundowns’ Elias Pelembe had cancelled out Oupa Manyisa’s early goal from the penalty spot.
“My players know how to reach the final and they know how to win finals. And today they made the first step and I will try my best to help them win this trophy. At any big club in the world, a season without a trophy is a bad season.We know that and we will do our best to win it,” said Vermezovic after the much-needed victory for the Buccaneers.
Goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa was crucial in the win over Pitso Mosimane’s side, the Bafana Bafana shot-stopper making a brilliant double save on the hour to deny Surprise Moriri, just two minutes before Klate’s free-kick found it’s way into the Sundowns net past Kennedy Mweene in goal.
Vermezovic praised Meyiwa, and his central defensive pairing of captain Siyabonga Sangweni and Rooi Mahamutsa, who stopped Sundowns’ big men Alje Schut and Thabo Nthethe scoring from set pieces.
“Long balls we can defend. Thanks to our defenders, thanks to our goalkeeper, I think we won more balls than they did and especially the second ball, it was very important for us,” the former Kaizer Chiefs coach said.
“Supporters must be satisfied with today’s game. Both teams played at a very high level. The result could have been different. They had a lot of chances, but our guys deserved this win especially after back-to-back defeats (against Mpumalanga Black Aces and SuperSport United). It was very difficult to lift them up and I am happy that we managed to do so.”
Sundowns coach Mosimane, teary-eyed after the defeat, also reserved special praise for Meyiwa after the ’keeper’s heroics ended Sundowns’ league and cup double hopes.
“We played to win the match. I think we played proper football, the way football should be played. Circumstances in the first five minutes made us not to win the match. Senzo stood between us and a win. That’s why he is Man of the Match,” Mosimane said of the Pirates No1.
Pirates, though, were clearly missing the leadership of regular captain Lucky Lekgwathi, who was left on the bench, but they held on for the win, due to some poor finishing from Sundowns’ Surprise Moriri.
Lekgwathi (37) is likely to feature less in the line-up, as Vermezovic seems to prefer having Sangweni and Mahamutsa at the heart of the defence.
The Buccaneers, meanwhile, will have to quickly shift their minds back to the league, where they run the risk of falling out of the top eight following a run of inconsistent results in the second half of the season.
They are in seventh place on 37 points, just two ahead of ninth-placed Platinum Stars. Pirates host Steve Komphela’s in-form Maritzburg United in Orlando on Wednesday.
Sundowns will look to maintain their spot at the top of the table with a win over tricky Mpumalanga Black Aces, also on Wednesday, at Loftus. - The Star