10 December 2013
Platinum Stars defeated Orlando Pirates 2-1 in the final of a knockout competition for the second time this season to claim the Telkom Knockout Cup and its R4-million winners’ cheque on the weekend.
After finishing as runners-up to Kaizer Chiefs in the Premier Soccer League last season, the team from Rustenburg won their first silverware of the season at the end of September by edging out Pirates on penalties after they had drawn 1-1 after extra time in the MTN 8 final. On Saturday night at the Mbombelo Stadium in Nelspruit they had to come from behind to defeat the Buccaneers.
Three finals defeats
Roger De Sa’s charges, losers to Stars in the MTN 8 final and losers to Al Ahly in the Caf Champions League final, looked on course for victory, thanks to Lucky Lekgwathi’s first half header, but Stars made it three finals defeats on the trot for Pirates with two late goals from substitute Mogakolodi Ngele.
With Pirates dominating play, Dikwena coach Allan Freese made a double change with a little less than half-an-hour left to play, introducing Botswana international Ngele and Mduduzi Nyanda. He was rewarded by Ngele with goals in the 78th and 80th minutes.
‘We didn’t panic’
“When we conceded in the first half we didn’t panic. We went back in the change room and looked at what we could do better,” Freese said after the game.
“When we didn’t push up enough to support Robert [Ng’ambi] and Henrico [Botes], we decided to take out a holding midfielder, and put in an attacking midfielder and it worked out well for us.”
“We made the right changes and when we brought in Ngele, okay he lost the ball the first few times, but once he got his touch right, he was going well.”
Freese praised Namibian international forward Botes for his work up front in holding up the ball to bring others into play and termed Ngele’s second goal “beautiful”.
Last gasp disappointments
For Pirates’ coach Roger De Sa, a season that has promised so much has become one of last-gasp disappointments.
“We’ll try and make the next cup final, that’s all. We’ll try and get there again and have another go at it,” he said. “To get to the final is difficult and we just need to finish it off. It’s just one of those things and we have to keep on going.”
Remarkably, both cup titles won by Stars have come with Freese as caretaker coach. With Stars also currently fourth in the PSL, only four points off the top, his full-time appointment is surely imminent.
And just to underline Freese’s claim to the job, Stars beat the big three – Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates – on their way to the Telkom Knockout Cup title.