Mutombo emerges a hero after Pirates win

With a script as strange and uncanny as that penned by a fiction writer, Orlando Pirates secured a frenzied 2-1 extra-time victory over SuperSport United in the SAA Supa8 semifinal at Durban’s King’s Park Stadium on Thursday night, with much-maligned coach Bibey Mutombo emerging the unlikely hero.

The Democratic Republic of Congo-born coach—who on Saturday only escaped unharmed from Bidvest Stadium after the Buccaneers’ defeat against Wits University courtesy of transport from the scene of discontent in a police vehicle—made an inspired change that precipitated the astonishing three-goal spree in six minutes in the second period of extra-time after the hectic proceedings had gone scoreless for 105 minutes.

Mutombo brought on one-time Pirates prodigy Joseph Makhanya as his trump card in the 106th minute and the diminutive attacking midfielder opened the score with a stunning angled shot a bare three minutes later following a breathtaking inter-passing movement with fellow-prodigy Lebohang Mokoena.

Then, after Mutombo had seemingly offered a prayer of thanks on the touchline for what appeared a goal that was destined to secure a much-needed victory for the Buccaneers, another substitute, this time Katlego Mashego, equalised for SuperSport with a snaking ground shot only two minutes later to turn the game on its head again.

But the hard-to-comprehend climax was not yet over, and when Pirates were awarded a free-kick in the 115th minute, Joseph Kamwendo’s shot deflected wickedly off the wall of defenders to provide the winning goal with helpless SuperSport goalkeeper Andre Arendse initially moving in the wrong direction.

It was an outcome that eased problem-riddled Pirates into the final next Saturday against Mamelodi Sundowns and was greeted with a mixture of bedlam and disbelief by a crowd consisting almost entirely of Bucs’ supporters.

There was no fluke about the outcome either, with what appeared a highly-motivated and never-say-die Pirates combination controlling much of the proceedings and looking the more imaginative and inventive team.

And if Mutombo was singled out as the villain for some of Pirates’ recent insipid performances, his detractors must surely be gracious enough to proclaim him a hero on this occasion when the players under his charge could not have given more heart and soul into their performances.

For all this, the game for the opening 105 minutes again fell into a pattern of dour, hard-running but dull football that has marked most of the season.

Neither goalkeeper was tested unduly during the scheduled opening 90 minutes and Arendse and Francis Chansa were only called into serious action in extra-time.—Sapa

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