Orlando Pirates displayed phenomenal character when they fought back to a 3-1 victory in the Nedbank Cup final, at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday afternoon
The Nedbank Cup final got off to a fierce pace as Orlando Pirates looked to stamp their dominance early on. Thirty seconds into the match Kermit Erasmus almost stunned the crowd at the sold-out stadium, after he ran onto a great through pass, before creating space for himself to strike from close range. However, Bidvest Wits goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs did well to deny The Buccaneers an early opening goal.
The match continued at a high tempo for the most part, with Pirates dominating the majority of the first period. The opening quarter saw The Buccaneers dictating the play as they held superior ball possession. Defender Thabo Matlaba was superb in his overlapping runs down the left side, but lacked accuracy with his final cross into the danger area.
Attacker Erasmus continued to harass the Wits defense, using his speed and strength on the ball. Twenty minutes in, The Clever Boys slowly started to settle into the game and find their rhythm. Their approach in the final third was clear as they attempted to exploit The Buccaneers in the air with aerial balls and long throw-ins into the 18 yard area.
In the 25th minute of the match Wits found the opening goal through Jabulani Shongwe, after the ball fell favorably to him within six yards. Calvin Kadi started the initial move down the left and looked to have been fouled for a penalty from a challenge by Happy Jele, but the referee did a great job to continue play and Shongwe picked up the ball to hammer it into the roof of the net.
Gavin Hunt’s men took the lead with their first strike at goal, and despite having just 44% of the ball possession. Kadi proved to be a threat to the Pirates defense and was repeatedly fouled in the final third. The attacker was unfortunately forced to be substituted before the stroke of half time after picking up an injury.
Three minutes into the second period Wits looked to catch Pirates on the back foot. Sibusiso Vilakazi did well to outsmart Thandani Ntshumayelo with an off the ball run to pick up a through pass, but Ntshumayelo was forced to make a clumsy challenge to concede the free kick and was fortunate to receive just a cautionary booking.
In the 52nd minute Erasmus leveled matters when his shot sailed into the back of the net. Oupa Manyisa had made a great run down the right wing, before the well positioned Erasmus executed the finish which took a deflection and left Josephs going the wrong way.
Ten minutes later The Buccaneers took the lead from an attack down the right once more. Former Wits player Sifiso Myeni picked up the ball in the danger area and snuck it into the near corner to narrowly beat Josephs.
At the other end Wits continued their aerial balls into the 18 yard area, but there was some superb goalkeeping by Senzo Meyiwa as he repeatedly denied The Students. In the 71st minute Pirates got a two goal cushion, when Erasmus found the back of the net for a second time after hammering the ball home from close range. The Students were all over the place at the time, having lost their composure since Pirates went ahead.
Wits continued to attack utilizing aerial balls, but Pirates hung on and went on to claim their first piece of silverware for this season after losing three Cup finals.