Santos coach Boebie Solomons is hoping to get one of the big guns — Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates or Mamelodi Sundowns — when the draw for the quarterfinals of the Telkom Knockout is made in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Speaking after his side scraped to a lucky 1-0 win over BidVest Wits at Milpark on Sunday, Solomons acknowledged they were lucky against Wits, but said he would like to play one of the big sides, such as Chiefs, Pirates or Downs, in the next round.
“You know what to expect from them and players are always motivated when playing those teams. If we can get past them, then this could be our Cup.”
Santos rode their luck and prospered after Wits failed to capitalise on the countless chances they created. The Students should have wrapped up this Cup-tie before halftime.
But the longer the game went on the more Santos’ counter-attacking tactics started to bite, and once they scored through Salmaan King in the 69th minute, there was no way back for Wits.
“If this had been a boxing match the referee would have stopped it at halftime. But having said that, we have to learn to finish off and kill teams when we are on top, as we were in the first half,” said Wits head coach Roger de Sa.
“It is hard to complain to my players for losing as they really played well, but we need to find a killer instinct.”
On Santos, De Sa said he had expected the People’s Team to sit back and defend: “They did as I knew they would and that was to park their bus in their goalmouth and then suck us in.”
Solomons was down to earth about his side’s performance, saying: “We were not convincing, but it can only get better. Wits played well and had us in trouble in the first half and I was worried.
“We were struggling with our legs and were under a bit of pressure, but we weathered the storm and in the end come away with a big win and a place in the quarterfinals of a major cup competition.
“Once we scored I fancied us to win as we are a hard side to break down.”
Santos goalkeeper Tshepo Motsoeneng was named as man of the match. That decision was a mystery. The keeper had a lucky afternoon and made only one really good save during the game from Sibusiso Vilakazi in the 68th minute, but he could have cost his side the game when he decided to dribble Vilakazi in the 53rd minute and lost possession.
Lucky for Motsoeneng, Stanton “Stiga” Fredericks’s shot from the loose ball hit the side netting.
Wits suffered a setback midway through the second half when Fredericks, who had a great game controlling the midfield, was forced to leave the battle with a hamstring injury.
Fredericks, now 33, is proving to be a big signing for Wits and De Sa.
He was resigned at the start of the season by the club where he began his career in 1997. His experience and way he bossed the game before going off was a revelation.
In Sunday’s other Telkom Knockout first-round clash, Maritzburg United defeated Bloemfontein Celtic 2-1 at the Seisa Ramabodu Stadium. — Sapa