25 September 2012
Experience was the key, said coach Zeca Marques, as Moroka Swallows edged SuperSport United 2-1 at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday to lift the MTN8 title for the first time since 1979.
“You can’t change a winning formula and you can’t buy experience and this is what we got today,” he said at a post-match press conference.
“We won it because of experience. Youth is great, but it’s got to be balanced.
“Today we proved that with experience we can achieve things.”
‘It’s a great feeling’
Marques, who was an assistant coach to Gordon Igesund before Igesund was signed to coach Bafana Bafana, added: “This will go down in my memory forever. It’s a great feeling, a great moment for the team, for the club, for our supporters, for our sponsors.
“I’m so happy for the supporters. They have suffered the last few years. I’m so happy for the players, they played like real fighters. They showed what they are made of.”
Man of the match Georgi Nergadze produced an industrious performance for the Birds in the midfield and also struck their first goal with a real pearler of a shot from distance.
On SuperSport’s side, their best attacking moments came through Sameehg Doutie, who showed off some insightful touches, but was quiet in the second half of the contest.
Midfielder Felix Obada had a good chance to fire Swallows into the lead in only the second minute when he latched onto a well-weighted through ball on the right hand side. He had plenty of time to shoot, but composure was missing from his effort, which flew wide of the right hand upright.
The Soweto club looked to have settled the faster of the two teams as they made the better early impression, but after only five minutes they found themselves behind.
Doutie set up Franklin Cale for the score with a superb defence-splitting ball across the top of the goal box, which took advantage of Swallows’ defence line being only slightly out of alignment. It was enough to put Cale five metres clear of the nearest defender, mere metres from the goal.
He met the ball in stride with his left foot and steered it to the right of Swallows’ goalkeeper Greg Etafia, who tried to close down the angle, but was done in by the perfection of the pass.
When SuperSport broke up a promising Swallows’ attack on the quarter-hour-mark, Sibusiso Zuma found Doutie in space on the right flank. He then picked out his Cale on the right with a floated pass across the top of the goal box. Cale met the ball on the volley, but his effort was disappointing and was sliced well wide of the goal.
The Pretoria club looked good on the counter-attack, but they were caught out with a sucker-punch shortly after that.
Swallows attacked down the right and then brought the ball back inside to Lefa Tsutsulupa. As he made to shoot, the ball was knicked away from him, but it fell to Nergadze, right out in front on the top of the goal box.
He pounced on the ball, striking a powerful shot high into the side of the netting to goalkeeper Rowen Fernandez’s right to level the scores at 1-1.
Masatsantsa came close to retaking the lead when a free kick from Cale found Fransman in the Swallows’ box, but his header passed narrowly wide of the mark.
With just over half-an-hour gone, SuperSport had an excellent opportunity to edge ahead, but it came to nought.
A quick one-two between Doutie and Zuma put Doutie through with only Etafia to beat, but the Swallows’ netminder saved well to his left after he had cut down the angle.
A short while later, Etafia dropped the ball from a corner kick, but SuperSport were unable to make him pay for his error.
The teams turned with the scores level at 1-1.
Cale tested Etafia with a free kick early in the second stanza, but the goalkeeper passed the test.
Lerato Chabangu then had a chance to beat Fernandez with a free kick, but his shot passed over the top of the goal.
Oh so close
Just before the hour-mark, Swallows came as close to scoring as one can get without actually scoring.
They began with an attack down the right before a ball inside found Katlego Mashego in the middle. He attempted a shot, but it was blocked.
The ball, however, fell to Nergadze, who found Tsutsulupa with a header on the left. The midfielder crossed, but Fernandez steered the ball away from the goal with a dive and a swat with his outstretched right hand.
It fell to Chabangu, who met the ball on the volley and cracked a shot towards goal. Fernandez was unsighted, but somehow it didn’t cross the line as he and Mor Diouf combined to scramble it away.
Shape and flow
Both teams created openings without being able to follow through with a finish as the game lost some of its shape and flow.
Cale tried out Etafia again with a long-range effort, but the goalkeeper punched his speculative shot from distance away.
Chenene was off-target for Swallows from a tight angle and Siyabonga Nomvethe, on as a substitute, then headed wide for the Birds.
Only three minutes remained when Bennett Chenene beat the offside trap to race onto a lobbed pass. Fernandez came out to challenge him, but Chenene made good use of the bounce of the high pass to direct the ball over the goalkeeper’s head and into the empty net.
The Swallows’ players, bench and supporters erupted with joy, while SuperSport’s players’ shoulders slumped. Time was almost up and they knew it.
Five minutes of additional time was played, but the score went unchanged and Swallows claimed their first MTN8 title in 33 years.
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