'I bite my tongue'- Mokwena on ref’s display in Sundowns’ cup final defeat

Sazi Hadebe Sports reporter
Orlando Pirates celebrate being the champions of the 2023 MTN8 final after beating Mamelodi Sundowns at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
Orlando Pirates celebrate being the champions of the 2023 MTN8 final after beating Mamelodi Sundowns at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena had no comment on the performance of referee Abongile Tom after his side lost 3-1 on penalties to Orlando Pirates in the MTN8 Cup final at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday.

Sundowns had at least one penalty appeal turned down by Tom towards the end of a scrappy match that ended 0-0 after 120 minutes. 

Mokwena, whose team was labelled beneficiaries of poor officiating going into the final, especially in their semifinal against Kaizer Chiefs, said the Brazilians left everything on the pitch and he preferred to express his pride at his players' performance rather than that of the match officials.

Downs' coach said windy conditions and a pitch he felt was not up to scratch were levellers in the final.

Sundowns were lucky to not concede a penalty against Kaizer Chiefs in the semifinal of the cup in a match they won 2-1 on aggregate in Pretoria. Had Chiefs been awarded the spot kick (by referee Luxolo Badi, who has since been suspended for his poor handling of the match) Sundowns would have lost the match.

“It [the result] is on the pitch and I hope it will be [reviewed] on Monday [on the television panel shows]. The discussion I hope is on Monday,” was Mokwena's curt post-match reaction about some of Tom's decisions which denied the 36-year-old coach a first domestic cup trophy since becoming head coach of Sundowns a year ago.

“I will be listening and watching. I have to bite my tongue. I have to try very hard to bite my tongue.” 

Mokwena admitted Sundowns were unable to play their normal passing game because of the windy conditions, which worsened in Durban a few hours before kickoff. 

“The conditions were quite difficult but also the pitch was not the best. It was heavy and slow even though they tried to water it.

“OK, it sounds like sour grapes when you speak about conditions when you don’t win but let’s stay with what it is.

“As I said even in the prematch press conference, let’s leave things on the periphery and let's focus on the football. And on the football I would say we did our best, we tried very hard.

“We were in a difficult moment but to generate the [number of] chances we did and still not score ... [an injured] Thapelo Morena and Lucas Ribeiro [Costa] couldn’t be there for us.

“The boys did their best and I’m so proud of the players for representing this club with everything they have. They gave their all.”

Mokwena, whose side tasted their first defeat in all competitions during his tenure on Saturday, said he had no time to cry over the loss and was now looking forward to fighting for the five trophies they would still be competing for this season. 

“We just have to move on. We could have won it in the 90 minutes but unfortunately we didn’t do it.

“When we don’t win, unfortunately the coach must take responsibility and I’m the first to put my hand up and accept the blame.” 

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