Heartache and joy in Nedbank Cup final thriller
It was 2005 all over again for Roger de Sa. Heartache in a cup final and he was defeated by the same man, Pitso Mosimane.
Ten years after De Sa and Mosimane clashed in an Absa (now Nedbank) Cup final as coaches of Wits University and SuperSport United respectively, they met in the same competition yesterday at the helm of different clubs.
Back then a Lungisani Ndlela goal was enough to clinch the trophy for SuperSport in regulation time, but this game needed extra time and penalties before Mosimane could pop the champagne and lift the trophy with his players.
Unlike 10 years ago, when there was very little pressure to win the cup, Mosimane needed to win or face the wrath of club fans. After missing out on the league title, the sometimes unruly Downs fans would not have been able to take the pain of missing out on more silverware. The Nedbank Cup is not quite as big as the league title, but the fans will certainly take it and hope that it inspires the team to more success next season.
Without a knockout competition trophy since 2008, Sundowns were given a run for their money by a determined Ajax group, but they managed to hold their nerve in the penalty shootout, winning it in sudden death to clinch the title.
It was the perfect gift for Sundowns captain Alje Schut, the big Dutchman who played his last game for the club yesterday after joining in 2012. He goes back home with a league and Nedbank Cup medal.
Schut was taken off five minutes before the penalty shootout and he was given a standing ovation by the fans. It was well deserved for the contribution he has made.
Many players outside of Africa have come to play in the Premier Soccer League, but few have made the impact Schut has made.
Sundowns celebrated their win, but spare a thought for Ajax coach De Sa. Not on the bench after getting his marching orders in the final league game against Orlando Pirates last weekend, he watched helplessly from the VIP area as his players fell to the ground in disappointment after giving it all in the tournament.
With just one trophy in seven finals, the former Pirates coach must be wondering what more he needs to do to win a cup.
But credit should go to his Ajax boys for putting up a fight. They were not outplayed by their opponents at all and at times actually looked like they would win this game. The fact that they took Sundowns to penalties shows just how much they performed.
In fact, it was Ajax who sent out the first warning in the sixth minute when Nathan Paulse shot wide of goal after defender Ramahlwe Mphahlele carelessly gave away possession. The lanky forward’s left-footed strike went wide of Denis Onyango’s goal.
Sundowns did settle though and started playing constructive football, but their finishing and decision-making in the final third let them down. Former Ajax man Khama Billiat, Teko Modise, Mzikayise Mashaba and Bongani Zungu all had chances to put the 2008 champions in front. However, none of them could capitalise.
Like the first half, the second period was a tightly contested affair, but Billiat could have won the game 10 minutes from time when substitute Anthony Laffor set him up with a good cross from the right. Not the tallest of players, Billiat’s header went narrowly over the bar. It was at that point when it was clear that the game would go into extra time. Still there were no goals and it had to be decided by penalties, Zungu scoring the all-important kick to send the crowd into raptures.
Ajax: Paulse scores, Nkoana misses, Scott scores, Graham scores, Mobara misses, Cale misses
Sundowns: Laffor scores, Kekana misses, Malajila saved, Mashaba scores, Nthethe scores, Zungu scores