Orlando Pirates coach Ruud Krol can relax for the first time since joining Bucs two years ago, but admitted his nerves were shot after leading his side to a nail-biting 4-2 penalty shoot-out win over Soweto rivals Moroka Swallows in the final of the MTN8 knockout cup at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday night.
Krol died a thousands deaths after Bucs threw away a 1-0 lead and allowed the Birds to equalise with four minutes remaining to take the final into extra time and then the dreaded penalties.
The fact that Pirates also won their biggest payday in the club’s history — a whopping R8-million — was not even mentioned by Krol and his victorious players who were celebrating long into the night after securing Bucs’ first knockout trophy in 10 years.
It could easily have been another disappointment for Pirates. With victory in their sights in regular time, defender Rooi Mahamutsa showed his indiscipline by giving away a free kick near the edge of the penalty area in the 86th minute, which allowed the Birds to level the tie with a goal from Morgan Shivambu.
“I am relieved, but I am a happy man now that we have ended Pirates’ 10 drought without a knockout trophy,” said Krol.
“It was hard work but worth the effort, and I am pleased for everyone, especially our chairman [Irvin Khoza] who has worked so hard at building the club and at last we can show him a reward.”
The former Dutch captain also disclosed that he was worried in the second half.
“We dominated the first half and what worried me was we created chances but failed to add to the first-half penalty [scored by Daine Klate] and Swallows became stronger in the second half,” he said.
Birds keeper Aubrey Mathibe, who was replaced at half-time by Greg Etafia due to an injury, can count himself lucky not to have been shown a red card by referee Faiek Daniels — he received a yellow — after a deliberate foul on striker Elena Otorugu that led to Klate’s penalty in the 18th minute.
“Swallows had us under a lot of pressure in the second half, but it was our will to win and our strength during the last 30 minutes of extra time that saw us through a tough final,” said Krol.
Man of the match Andile Jali said the players never lost hope despite conceding the late goal.
“For some reason our heads dipped in the last 20 minutes of normal time,”said the 20-year-old buddng star.
“But once Swallows equalised we pulled ourselves together and made up our minds that this was going to be our cup.
“This is my second season with Pirates and already I have won a cup, but it is even sweeter for the older players who can remember back 10 years to the last time Pirates won a knockout cup.”
Pirates last won a knockout trophy in 2000 when they secured the former Top Eight Cup, and last lifted the league championship in the 2002/03 season.
Birds coach Rainer Zobel was the first to congratulate Pirates.
“On the night, Pirates deserved to win. We did not play well in the first half because we kept trying to play the ball long to our striker Siyabonga Nomvethe and it failed,” Zobel said.
“But we regrouped after half-time and took the game into extra time, and once the game went to extra time it was a lottery and I don’t blame players for missing penalties. It’s all part of the game.”
The former Bayern Munich star said he was forced to replace Mathibe with Etafia due to injury at half-time.
“Mathibe could not continue,” Zobel said. “That meant I could only substitute two outfield players and in the end we ran out of steam in extra time.” – Sapa