Cape Town – Coach Eric Tinkler had the foresight to drill his penalty takers for three days, but it went horribly wrong when duty called against Mamelodi Sundowns in Saturday's evening MTN8 penalty shoot.
During the two stages of the penalty shoot-out to determine the MTN8 championship, City's penalty takers choked with anxiety and pressure and calmy surrendered their challenge. Sundowns held their nerve, or rather their goalkeeper Denis Onyango did, and they claimed a 3-2 penalty win. This ended their jinx after losing two MTN8 finals after penalty shoot-out failures.
At the post-match interview, Tinkler agreed it was "heartbreak of the highest order" after his team, decided underdogs came so close in the drama-filled final.
"I feel for the boys, it was tough to lose it the way we did," said Tinkler. "A penalty shoot-out is always like Russian roulette.”
"You can train penalty-taking all you want. The team practised penalties for three days solid. When you put them in this situation, we see players melt.
"Unfortunately, the pressure was too big. It is not a situation that can be replicated in the training sessions."
Tinkler congratulated the opposition and said they had so many "clever players in their team" who were difficult to contain.
"I congratulate Sundowns. They are an exceptional team," said Tinkler. "They proved a difficult team to break down.
"I thought we defended well but they have so many clever players in their team. They found solutions as the game wore on and then created opportunities. We found it difficult to contain them.
"Our boys responded well in the match. We needed to be patient on the ball and not panic. There were periods where we started to panic.
"At one stage we changed the formation and started to control the game and maybe could have gone on and won it. That all changed when (Idumba) Fasika got the yellow card and then we just had to hang on.
"We needed to keep an eye on Zwane. He was a constant threat every time he found the half-spaces. As a result, I thought it was important to change to a back-three, which is what we did later.
"We brought Terrence (Mashego) on and I thought that made a difference immediately.
"We needed to press a bit higher, and a bit longer. After the change in formation, we started to find each other with a lot more ease. It opened the way for us to score the equaliser."
After the last sudden-death penalty was taken, referee Thando Ndzandzeka incurred the wrath of the City who were protesting that Onyango had moved off his line when he saved the decisive penalty.
Replays showed that Onyango had in fact moved off his line before City skipper Thamsanqa Mkhize made contact with the ball on the 'spot'. Ndzandzeka did not take too kindly to be confronted by a group of City players and officials and he retaliated with a red card for Lakay.