The stage was set at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday as Baroka looked to continue their giant slaying act as they took on the Sea Robbers in the final of the 2018 Telkom Knockout Cup.
However, Pirates would certainly have something to say, considering that they went into the game on the back of a 15-game unbeaten run.
As expected, Baroka attempted to take the fight to Pirates as Wedson Nyirenda utilised the pace and skill of Talent Chawapiwa to open up spaces down the wing.
But Pirates looked to have answers for their opponents’ demands with Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic opting for the attacking quartet of Justin Shonga, Augustine Mulenga, Vincent Pule and the club’s top scorer in the competition with three goals, Thembinkosi Lorch.
Lorch did not wait long to get into the thick of things as he had a glorious chance to put Pirates ahead with seven minutes played. But his side-footed effort was well saved by Elvis Chipezeze.
The tide seemed to turn in Pirates’ favour and the impressive Port Elizabeth crowd were treated to wave after wave of attacking football in the first half.
With Nyatama dictating the midfield battle, that allowed Xola Mlambo to play in a more advanced role, and the former Chippa United midfielder was relishing that role, combining well with Shonga and Mulenga.
Despite the pressure, Baroka showed why they were yet to concede in the tournament as they remained resolute, which slowly appeared to frustrate the Soweto giants.
Meanwhile, Baroka were relying on the counter to attack in order to find the breakthrough. Chawapiwa, who has already contributed one assist on Baroka’s road to the final, was arguably their most impressive player as he dazzled his way inside the Pirates half.
Baroka though were guilty of being erratic in their own half, but luckily for them, Pirates’ Pule was yet to find his radar after the half-hour mark.
But with the half-time whistle looming, there would be drama after Marshall Munetsi was handed his marching orders for a nasty lunging tackle on a Baroka player.
It didn’t take too long for Baroka to make their numerical advantage count as Jemondre Dickens fired Baroka ahead. Goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane was caught in no man’s land and the forward made no mistake as he expertly placed the ball into the net, ensuring that his side went into the break ahead and on the verge of history.
Nonetheless, Pirates came out firing in the second half and hoped to gain an early equaliser but once again, Mlambo could not find the target.
As Pirates were throwing men forward going on the all-out attack, this left them susceptible to the counter attack.
This did not deter Pirates and Chipezeze needed to be at his best to keep out Lorch’s thunderous effort from an acute angle.
Baroka’s resoluteness eventually gave in in the 56th minute. Shonga’s curling freekick had the beating of the Baroka keeper but not the post, but the ball fell kindly for Musa Nyatama, who netted his first goal of the season. The 31-year-old’s strike not only drew Pirates level but also broke the club’s duck in terms of scoring in the first 15 minutes after the break in the Cup.
The equaliser certainly awoke the intensity as both sides continued to go hammer and tong at each other in search of a winner.
Pirates perhaps should have been ahead with less than 20 minutes to go after Mulenga found himself with only the keeper to beat. But somehow, the Zambian failed to find the target, to the relief of Baroka.
Bucs looked to steal victory at the death and had it not been for the Baroka keeper, who stood tall on two occasions, Pirates may have been on their way to hoisting the TKO aloft.
Nevertheless, the clash headed into extra-time, where Baroka won a penalty with 10 minutes played. Mduduzi Mdantsane stepped up and made no mistake as he put Baroka in the driving seat for the second time on the night.
While Baroka were just minutes away from victory, Lorch equalised for Pirates as the 10-men of Pirates refused to stay down. Micho’s men had one final chance to steal victory at the death after Mlambo was denied by the bar, and the game needed to be settled by a penalty shootout.
Baroka eventually emerged victorious after Lorch missed the decisive kick which sent the Baroka players and fans into a state of euphoria.