/ 24 May 2008

Sundowns win Nedbank Cup

It was going to take a special goal to win Nedbank Cup and the R6-million winner’s cheque. And it was a goal of sheer brilliance from Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Lerato Chabangu two minutes from time that earned the Brazilians a hard fought and largely undeserved 1-0 win over the gallant first division giant killers Mpumalanga Black Aces in a heart-stopping final played at the Johannesburg Stadium on Saturday.

Chabangu, apart from his goal, had a disappointing afternoon, but his superb volley from a Vuyo Mere cross was enough to sink Aces, who had played their hearts out and must have been gutted at conceding a goal in the 88th minute.

Aces won a lot of friends with their performance in which they matched their Premier Soccer League big brothers every inch of the way.

The Downs’ players are likely to share the R6-million winner’s cheque and the victory has earned the Brazilians a place in next year’s African Confederations Cup.

The near capacity crowd of about 30 000 were kept on the edge of their seats.

The Aces must be credited for their gutsy display. Downs looked sluggish but Aces never allowed their more experienced and skilful opponents to get into their stride. The tactical battle was won by Aces coach Kenny Ndlazi who opted to hit Downs on the counter.

Black Aces were the better side in an entertaining first half. The side from Witbank showed more initiative when going forward and it was Downs’ goalkeeper Brian Baloyi who was the busier of the two keepers.

Aces suffered a blow in the 37th minute when they lost their flying right wing Lindo Mbatha to injury. He was replaced by Emmanuel Emenike.

Mbatha troubled Downs in the ninth minute with a defence-splitting cross but Aces strikers failed to meet the ball and Downs survived a narrow scare.

Two minutes later Aces’ gangly central defender Gordon Gilbert did well to boot a dangerous free kick from Lerato Chabangu over his crossbar.

But the longer the half went, the stronger became the first-division outfit.

It took a superb save from Baloyi to deny Edelbert Dinha the opening goal in the 24th minute. Dinha, the former Orlando Pirates star, latched onto a long throw-in from Thabang Rooi, but the alert Baloyi did well to clear the danger.

Aces settled quicker on the bumpy pitch and kept Downs defence under pressure.

Baloyi again came to the rescue in the 31st minute when he managed to pouch a Dinha free kick.

Two minutes later, Josta Dladla shot a rare Sundowns attack ball over the Aces crossbar from 20 metres.

While Aces keeper Michel Babale had an easy 45 minutes, Baloyi was in the wars in the last minute of the half when he collided with Gilbert when fisting Rooi’s clever cross inside his penalty area.

Aces kept pushing after the break. Gilbert watched in agony as his 20 metre rocket flew past the Brazilians post after 55 minutes.

The Brazilians suffered a setback two minutes later when their Chilean international midfielder Jorge Acuna was forced to leave the field with a suspected pulled muscle. He was replaced by the more attacking Brent Carelse.

Aces former Kaizer Chiefs striker Kabamba Musasa tested Baloyi with a snap shot in the 61st minute.

Babale made his first real save of the match when he palmed away a well directed free kick from Peter Ndlovu from the edge of the penalty area after 63 minutes.

Two minutes later Babale was again in the thick of things — this time he fisted Surprise Moriri’s shot for a corner.

But Downs kept plugging away and the pressure finally told. Just when extra time was looming Chabangu, who had done little else, volleyed home the only goal in the 88th minute. – Sapa