Football can be a cruel game and former Baroka coach Kgoloko Thobejane was perhaps right when he commented that: “it can kill you a real death for sure!”
And echoes of Thobejane’s warnings must have reverberated throughout the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, on Saturday as Baroka registered a major shock when they lifted the Telkom Knockout Cup with a 3-2 victory over favorites Orlando Pirates.
Pirates players demonstrated how not to score from the penalty spot as they either shot straight at the goalkeeper (Thabiso Kutumela) while both Justine Shonga and Thembinkosi Lorch elected to disturb the flight of bats in the friendly city’s night sky with their efforts.
While Davies Nkausu also missed the target by a kilometer, Mdu Mdantsane, Sibiya and Semenya managed to beat Mpontshane who appeared to have redeemed himself when he saved one of the penalty kicks from the boot of Namibian Ananias Gebhardt.
And once again Pirates misses out on silverware as Zambian Wedson Nyirenda engineered Baroka’s first ever piece of silverware in a performance that indicated that the gap has perhaps been closed between the so-called small fry and big fish in SA football.
But the minute Orlando Pirates defender Marshall Munetsi allowed a rush of blood to his head shortly before the break, the 2018 Telkom Knockout final was decided as he earned himself a red card and the famed Buccaneers were reduced to 10-men.
At a packed Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Stadium, the game was full value for entertainment as both sets of players went at each other without holding back and spectators enjoyed a brilliant match that was once again good advert for the local game.
Baroka’s Jemondre Dickens silenced the Pirates followers with a sensationally struck volley in the 34th minute which swerved way beyond the groping hands of a well beaten Siyabonga Mpontshane in goals and it gave an early sign that a shock was in store.
However, Pirates were level on terms in the 59th minute when Elvis Chipezeze was beaten all ends up, the ball thudding against the upright and then rolling behind his back only for Musa Nyatama to react quickest and pushed the ball into the net.
But then it appeared as if the soccer gods decided to cponspire and punish Pirates, who had enjoyed large chunks of possession but did not convert, and when Munetsi crudely hacked Dickens, and referee Victor Gomes promptly sent him off.
To their credit, Pirates players folded their shirt sleeves and knuckled down, covering for the disadvantage of being a man down but it was Baroka who regained their lead early in the first period of extra time when Mdantsane beat Mpontshane from the penalty spot.
Mpontshane had raced off his line in a moment of madness and brought down Mduduzi Mdantsane who tried to round him up and once again, referee Gomes took a tough decision which no one could dispute and Pirates fell behind once more.
Mdantsane took just one step back and cheekily swung the ball to the far left of the goalkeeper whose belated diving frame was seconds late from touching the ball with his fingers and Bakgaga regained the lead as their coach Wedson Nyirenda performed an impromptu dance on the sideline.
It looked all over bar the shouting, but Thembinkosi Lorch was to bring the Buccaneers back into the game once again when he headed in Justine Shonga’s cross with four minutes of extra time remaining to level the score 2-2.
But in truth, Baroka deserved the trophy after eliminating Mamelodi Sundowns and defending champions Bidvest Wits in the previous round and then proved their superiority by beating Pirates to lift the cup.