Riveiro's goalkeeping decision pays off, Saleng shines on the biggest stage and more takeaways from the MTN8 final!
Orlando Pirates clinched their 11th title (in the PSL era)when they deservedly overcame Amazulu with a hard-fought 1-0 victory in the MTN8 final in Durban this past Saturday.
This was the Buccaneers’ second MTN8 in the last three years and Jose Riveiro’s first in South Africa since arriving four months ago.
For AmaZulu, the defeat means their wait to end a long silverware drought continues, with their last major trophy being the Coca-Cola Cup back in 1992.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
Home/Away advantage counted for very little
Orlando Pirates may have been drawn in as the home team on the day, but the Moses Mabhida Stadium plays home ground to Amazulu for their matches in the league. Yes, this would have given them a slight advantage over the Soweto Giants, but Pirates are currently great run of form, with new vision, temperament and energy brought in by the in-form Monapule Saleng, and new arrivals such as Ndabayithethwa Ndlondo and Miguel Timm.
Starting on a high note always crucial in cup ties
Jose Riveiro’s men were desperate for a decent start to this game, which saw his attackers apply the early pressure on an aggressive AmaZulu. This was a crucial part in their game plan, as Usuthu clearly needed to be slowed down, particularly in the middle of the park, where the likes of Timm battled the experience George Maluleka.
Riveiro’s goalkeeper decision pays off
The bold decision to drop Mpontshane following his error in the Soweto Derby may have surprised many, but it just goes to show what kind of coach Riveiro is. The Spaniard confidently backed Richard Ofori to be last line of defence in the final, ahead of Mpontshane who was unfortunate to have been beaten by a wold-class strike by Yusuf Maart in the only goal scored in the latest edition of the Soweto Derby two weeks ago.
Give Saleng Player of the Tournament already
This man has had a dream campaign in the MTN8 this season, with his latest displays coming in the final when he scored an incredible free kick to put his side ahead in the 25th minute. Poor positioning and concentration led to Veli Mothwa conceding to Saleng’s curler, which nestled in the top right corner. The 24-year-old finishes as the competition’s top scorer with three goals, and in the clear favourite to walk away with the Player of the Tournament award come the end of the season. Indeed, a campaign to remember for Mo Saleng.
Pirates’ solid defence earned them win
Orlando Pirates only conceded one goal in the MTN8 this season, back when they faced Royal AM in the quarter-final more than two months ago. Having played more than six hours of football and scoring six times, Orlando Pirates were deservedly crowned champions due to their solid defence. And although they suffered a heavy blow when Nkosinathi Sibisi had to be stretchered off the pitch after injuring his calf inside the opening 30 seconds, this had very little impact on their performance.