Mthethwa takes Bucs to the Nedbank final

Sihle Ndebele Journalist

Sandile Mthethwa came off the bench to be Orlando Pirates' hero, scoring the winner that saw them beat bitter rivals Kaizer Chiefs to reach the Nedbank Cup final at a sold-out FNB Stadium on Saturday.

The 2-1 outcome after extra time meant Chiefs' eight-year trophy drought stretches, while the Buccaneers, who had lost all the five previous fixtures against Chiefs, now stand a good chance to bag their second trophy of the season after winning the MTN8.

The game was delayed by 15 minutes as thousands of fans were still outside the stadium by the time the match was supposed to kick-off. Presumably due to lack of fitness amid his recent injury woes, Pirates star Thembinkosi Lorch didn't make the match-day squad. In Lorch's absence, coach Jose Riveiro deployed an unfamiliar front line of two strikers in Terrence Dzvukamanja and Kermit Erasmus.

On the other hand, Chiefs coach Arthur Zwane unexpectedly dropped fan-favourite Mduduzi Shabalala from the starting XI with natural right-back Dillan Solomon starting at right wing, where Shabalala usually plays. Having missed Chiefs' last two games against Chippa United and Swallows, owing to an unspecified injury, first-choice centre-back Edmilson Dove returned to the Amakhosi lineup. 

The game started like a house of fire as both teams played in high intensity. Such was their high intensity that they each got corner-kicks inside the first three minutes. As the game progressed, Chiefs enjoyed more box entries, thanks to their nippy forwards Ashley Du Preez and Cristian Saile. Amakhosi's aggressive approach nearly paid off as early as the 10th minute when Du Preez's cross fell onto Saile's path only for him to miskick the ball at point black range.

Tables turned quickly because the deadlock was broken by the Sea Robbers, via Erasmus' tap-in after being teed up by their talismanic winger Monnapule Saleng, four minutes after Saile's unbelievable miss. While Pirates played patiently, Chiefs were always utilising the speed of their attackers. Saile would miss another great chance late in the first stanza, flushing a headed effort off the target. 

Pirates dealt a blow late in the first half when right-back Bandile Shandu was stretchered off, after colliding with Saile. Deon Hotto replaced him. There were many stoppages in the second stanza as Pirates keeper Sipho Chaine appeared to be faking injuries to wind down the clock until Chiefs found the equaliser, courtesy of  Yusuf Maart's cool finish in the 79th minute. Maart was set-up by Solomons.

The extra time was a somewhat physical affair, resulting in a few scuffles. Nkosinathi Sibisi and Siyabonga Ngezana were yellow carded for their involvement in one of those scuffles. The decisive Mthethwa goal came in the 114th minute. The Pirates defender rose the highest to nod home Philip Ndlondlo's delightful cross.

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