An early second-half penalty for Orlando Pirates turned out to be the defining moment in the game.
CAPE TOWN – Orlando Pirates were crowned MTN8 champions following their 2-1 win over 10-man Bloemfontein Celtic in the final at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, on Saturday evening, after the teams were level-pegging with a goal each at halftime.
An early second-half penalty for Pirates turned out to be the defining moment in what was an entertaining encounter played in pouring rain for most of the match.
Play in the opening minutes suggested that the teams were not going to settle for typical cup football as there was obvious attacking intent.
Celtic grabbed the initiative and earned a second-minute free-kick 40m out and it was well struck by their captain Ndumiso Mabena. Pirates’ Ghanaian goalkeeper turned Mabena’s effort away for a corner, setting the stage for Celtic’s 4th-minute goal.
Pirates battled to clear their lines when dealing with the corner. Celtic midfielder Siphelele Luthuli, unmarked in front of the opposition goals, cracked the ball with an acrobatic effort into the Pirates goals (1-0).
Pirates, slow starters, as usual, were not able to mount a fightback and Celtic continued to exert pressure with penetrative sorties down the middle. By this time Celtic were dominating the key moments, working the ball well but they lacked the cutting edge to build on their 1-0 lead.
Midway through the half, Pirates showed a greater sense of urgency and the introduction of substitute Thembinkosi Lorch for the injured Thabang Monare helped to unlock the Celtic’s central defence.
A few times, the Celtic defence were caught napping as they battled to cope with a Pirates’ speedy front-runners, and this was a signal that Pirates were on the verge of a breakthrough that came when Namibian Deon Hotto grabbed the equaliser for Pirates in the 31st minute when Celtic’s defence was in disarray (1-1).
Celtic, seemed undaunted by the setback and set off on a wave of attacks into the Pirates goalmouth but they lost their way in the striking zone. But it was Pirates that finished the first half strongly and who were unlucky not to take the lead after a scoring effort went marginally wide of the upright in the 42nd minute.
When second-half play resumed, Celtic looked dangerous and Pirates battled to contain their spirited start.
However, the match was turned on its head in the 50th minute when referee Luxolo Badi red-carded Celtic’s central defender Ronald Pfumbidzai. Lorch was running onto an innocuous upfield kick, and he was brought down in the Celtic goalmouth.
Lorch’s spot-kick flew wide of Celtic’s goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane and with Celtic reduced to 10 players, the goal signalled the end of their hopes of winning. The goal helped to lift Pirates’ game and they held the upper hand for a sustained spell but failed to dominate despite their numerical advantage.
Celtic seemed to draw inspiration from Pirates’ inability to capitalise on their superior numbers and from around the 70th minute onwards, Celtic created two scoring opportunities in quick succession but when they came away empty-handed, Pirates stormed back into the game.
A few minutes from the end, Pirates forced two corners but were denied further goals as Celtic’s defence continued to offer dogged resistance.