Sundowns edge Aces for Nedbank Cup

26 May 2008

The inaugural Nedbank Cup reached its climax at the Johannesburg Stadium on Saturday as the Premier Soccer League’s richest club, Mamelodi Sundowns, edged National First Division giant killers, Mpumalanga Black Aces, 1-0 for the richest knockout cup prize on the African continent.

Despite the stature of their opposition, the R6-million on offer to the winners, and a near-capacity crowd, Black Aces were not overawed by the occasion and matched the Brazilians blow-for-blow as the contest unfolded.

Inside the opening 10 minutes, Lindo Mbatha found space down the flank and his cross asked questions of the defenders, but also failed to find an Aces’ player.

Goal-line clearance

Two minutes later, the Mpumalanga team’s record of not conceding a single goal in the competition was almost ended as Michael Babale failed to hold on to a free-kick taken by Lerato Chabangu. Luckily for the goalkeeper, Gordon Gilbert was on hand to clear the ball and bail him out.

Midway through the half, ‘Downs keeper Brian Baloyi needed to make a sharp stop to prevent Edelbert Dinha from scoring. Baloyi deflected the ball behind for a corner from which Kabamba Musasa failed to find the target with a header from close range.

Dinha’s opportunity had been created by a long throw-in from Thabang Rooi, who was proving himself rock-solid in defence as the Brazilians’ forwards struggled to make any impact on the Aces’ defenders.

Sadly for Aces, they lost winger Mbatha shortly before the break after he had taken quite a battering from the Sundowns’ defenders. He was replaced by Nigerian Emmanuel Emenike.

Amazayoni on top

When the whistle sounded for halftime, it was “Amazayoni” who had enjoyed a better first half than their illustrious PSL opposition.

After the break, Gilbert blasted a shot from 20 metres just wide of Baloyi’s goal as Aces continued to take the game to Sundowns.

The Brazilians suffered a blow 17 minutes into the second stanza when their Chilean international midfielder, Jorge Acuna, was forced from the field with what appeared to be a pulled muscle.

Downs’ experienced Zimbabwean striker Peter Ndlovu brought the best out of Babale with a free kick from the edge of the area and shortly afterwards the Aces’ goalie fisted away a shot from Surprise Moriri for a corner.

By this time, Sundowns were exerting more pressure on Aces, but the First Division club’s defence continued to hold up. Ndlovu was a fighting a losing battle up front where Rooi and Lucas Thomelang controlled the air.

Winning goal

With time slowly ticking away it seemed the game was headed for extra time, but two minutes from the end Lerato Chabangu, who hadn’t enjoyed a good outing up to that point, struck the winning goal.

Rooi cleared a cross by Vuyo Mere and Chabangu reacted fastest and with telling effect as he volleyed a superb shot past Babale, who had no chance to make a stop.

It was the first and last goal that Aces had conceded in the competition and it had come after they had gone six hours and 28 minutes without Babale being beaten. With so little time left on the clock, it was a sickening blow for “Amazayoni”.

Awards

When the final whistle sounded shortly afterwards, the honours went the way of Mamelodi Sundowns, along with the R6-million winners’ cheque. It was the second trophy of the season for the Pretoria club, which had won the SAA Supa 8 early in the season.

Meanwhile, the individual honours went to Blacks Aces. Vusiwe Masondo was named Player of the Tournament, while Thabang Rooi was named the Most Promising Player of the Tournament.

Kenny Ndlazi’s charges took home a healthy R2.5-million for finishing as runners-up after an inspirational campaign.

Path to the final

They had won their way through to the final after contesting every single round of the competition, beginning with the preliminary round in which they beat the First Division Inland Stream’s bottom club Garankuwa United 1-0.

They claimed their first PSL scalp in the first round with a 2-0 win over Thanda Royal Zulu. In the second round they defeated the First Division Inland Stream’s top club, FC AK, 1-0.

Their unblemished defensive record remained intact in the quarterfinals, thanks to a 2-0 victory over Nathi Lions, also of the First Division.

Aces took on Free State Stars, who finished fifth in the PSL, in the semi-finals. Once again their defence was not breached as Stars were held scoreless and Kabamba Musasa scored the decisive goal on the hour.

Stiff challenges

Sundowns had to overcome some stiff challenges to make it to the title decider, including overcoming PSL champions SuperSport United 2-1 in the first round.

They followed that up with a 5-4 penalty shootout win over Kaizer Chiefs after the teams had shared a 1-1 draw in their second round showdown.

In the quarterfinals, the Brazilians beat FC Cape Town 2-0. They then booked their place in the final with a 1-0 win away to Amazulu, thanks to Esrom Nyandoro’s second half strike.

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