24 July 2006
South African glamour club Kaizer Chiefs got their season off to a title-winning start when they edged visiting English club Manchester United 4-3 on penalties to win the Vodacom Challenge at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Sunday.
Earlier in the competition, the Amakhosi had fallen one-nil to the Red Devils, but then booked their place in the final with a two-nil win over arch-rivals Orlando Pirates. United, meanwhile, thumped the Buccaneers four-nil in their meeting.
Chiefs’ coach Ernst Middendorp, who had come in for some criticism after his side failed to defend the PSL title they had won two seasons in succession, ultimately finishing third, was happy with the victory, but cautioned against fans becoming over-optimistic about the prospects for the club.
Look at the results realistically
He said people had to look at the result realistically: Manchester United fielded a young team, devoid of their World Cup stars, and the contests proved to be a valuable learning experience for Chiefs.
Frankly, neither Chiefs nor Pirates really extended the Red Devils’ defence, proof of this being in the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson’s outfit didn’t concede a goal in three games. Saturday’s final ended with the teams tied at nil-nil before going to penalties.
Middendorp reckoned the Amakhosi have shown good improvement over the last month, and the team has shown better cohesion with the passage of time. He says it is his intention to turn Chiefs from a flashy outfit into a winning side.
Ferguson: Chiefs better than Pirates
Manchester United’s veteran manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said that, in his opinion, Chiefs were a better team than Pirates, demonstrating a better structure and team performance. His comments are backed up by the Amakhosi’s three wins over the Sea Robbers last season.
Looking back on his club’s visit to South Africa, Ferguson said his players had got out of the experience what he had been hoping for. He also said the fact that no one was injured was a huge bonus.
In an unusually positive testimonial, Ferguson said: “We’ve enjoyed the tournament and found everything superb for us. The security has been top notch, the grounds have been great, the fans superb.”
Focusing on the final itself, Manchester United enjoyed the better of the first half, but their finishing wasn’t up to scratch as they squandered the chances they created.
Fangzhuo Dong had a number of chances to score, but he failed to beat goalkeeper Rowan Fernandez, including when he had a one-on-one situation against the Chiefs’ net-minder in the tenth minute.
Shaun Bartlett, who in the past had netted a number of times for Charlton against the Red Devils, had a decent opportunity to notch one for Chiefs against his one-time English Premier League foes, but his first-time touch after a defence-splitting ball from Siyabonga Nkosi let him down.
At halftime, both coaches made a number of changes, with Middendorp bringing on Arthur Zwane for David Obua, Thabo Mooki for Nkosi and Tenashe Nengomashe for Ditheko Mototo. Ferguson, meanwhile, changed four players.
Despite the change in personnel, neither side could find a way through the other’s defence, which meant the contest progressed to penalties.
Fernandez in the Chiefs’ goal then made sure he grabbed the headlines when he stopped Chris Eagles’ penalty and beat Ben Foster, in the United goal, from the spot.
His success, along with those of Bartlett, Mooki, and Kaizer Motaung Junior, won the Amakhosi the title.