MTN 8 Final review

At the outset, the country’s top two going head to head really needs no introduction. Currently, the only team in the land that can throw a spanner in the Sundowns’ works are the Mighty Buccaneers. Prior to kick off, MTN8 flag bearers struggled to contain the massive Orlando Pirates tribute amidst the strong winds, almost hinting that it was a sign of things to come!

Shortly after kick-off, Bafana Bafana captain, Ronwen Williams, appeared to fumble the ball after some not-so-fancy footwork. Perhaps this set the tone for the former SuperSport shot stopper, as his opposite number enjoyed a vastly different start to the game. A calamitous back pass from the Soweto giant’s defender, Nkosinathi Sibisi, was latched onto by Downs poacher, Peter Shalulile, who put on the afterburners. He calmly squared the ball to fan favourite Themba Zwane, only for the veteran to be denied by the on rushing Sipho Chaine.

Indeed, that passage of play came inside the opening five minutes of the fixture – sending a jolt of electricity throughout the stadium. With just under half an hour on the clock, Khuliso Mudau delivered a peach of a cross to an unmarked Shalulile at the back post. To say it was the kind of finish that was harder to miss than score would be an understatement – not one, not two, but three of ShaSha’s teammates fell to their knees after Chaine’s net went unimpeached. 

The first half was more or less evenly contested, with both teams matching each other blow for blow. With some misplaced passes in the final third, it’s safe to say that Pirates’ best move of the opening half came when Olisa Ndah was summoned from the bench. The defender enjoyed a warm welcome from the Pirates faithful at a sold-out Moses Mabhida in the cloudy Durban. Ndah’s contribution was second to none; he basically won everything in the air and came the closest to opening the scoring for the Buccaneers in the closing stages of the first half when he headed towards goal from a tight angle, only succeeding in sending his effort over the crossbar.

After the break, it became more evident that the two sides would match each other pound for pound. Neither team really had midfield superiority over the other, with both defences holding firm. Serial PSL winners, Mamelodi Sundowns were sharper in terms of chance creation and conjured up 15 shots over the tie. Pirates on the other hand were able to transition the ball to the wider areas of the pitch smoother, but some woeful crossing meant that there was no final pass. In short, Ronwen Williams was untested from open play in a cup final.

At last, the football lottery was called upon to settle the score. Just a week prior, Jose Riveiro’s men were dispatched from the second preliminary round of their CAF Champions League appointment, after their shootout didn’t go according to plan. In that one, the Pirates technical team substituted Chaine before penalties only for them to be knocked out 5-4, with Ofori saving none of the spot-kicks!

On this occasion, Chaine went on to become the hero with three consecutive saves in the MTN8 final shootout as they downed Mamelodi Sundowns 3-1. The new-look trophy is the 12th of its kind in the Orlando Pirates cabinet and the third time that the Mighty Buccaneers successfully defended their MTN 8 crown.