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Pirates break Nedbank Cup jinx

By Michael Madyira

Orlando Pirates were crowned 2022/23 Nedbank Cup champions following a 2-1 victory over Sekhukhune United at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Terrence Dzvukamanja had the final say with a stoppage-time strike after Tapelo Xoki had led the Buccaneers’ comeback with a 45th-minute goal which cancelled Sibusisio Vilakazi’s 12th-minute opener for Babina Noko.

The result completed a season double for Pirates who won the MTN8 earlier in the term and an emotional coach Jose Riveiro fought back tears of joy during the post-match interview.

It highlighted a successful season for Riveiro who arrived in South Africa last July as a nonentity for his first job in Africa amid being mocked as a “plumber.”

Pirates now have nine Nedbank Cup titles, thanks to Dzvukamanja who struggled in the early stages of the season and was almost loaned out in January but delivered when the stakes were at their highest.

Sekhukhune will, however, draw solace in that they will represent South Africa in the CAF Confederation Cup next season as the Buccaneers have already booked a Champions League berth by being PSL runners-up.

Pirates had experienced defensive players Tapelo Xoki and Thabang Monare returning while Sekhukhune fielded the usual veterans like Daniel Cardoso, Edwin Gymah, Vilakazi and Kamohelo Mokotjo.

The Soweto giants fell behind when Vilakazi connected, the first time, following Nkosinathi Sibisi’s poor clearance to claim the lead for Sekhukhune.

That goal sparked an immediate reaction from Pirates who had Erasmus misdirecting a feed from Monnapule Saleng with only the Sekhukhune goalkeeper Ali Badra Sangare to beat.

The Buccaneers kept on pushing and in the 21st minute, Erasmus was denied by the crossbar while Sangare was at hand to save the rebound from Thembinkosi Lorch’s boot.

Tensions then rose towards halftime when Pirates were awarded a penalty after Victor Letsalo was controversially adjudged to have handled inside the box.

Up-stepped Xoki to send Sangare the wrong way and level matters.

The second half saw both sides barely troubling each other, sending the contest into a drab affair without edge-of-the-seat action expected of a Cup final.

Elias Mokwana drew a good clearance from Pirates’ Paseka Mako while Monare twice had attempts at goal.

When the match appeared headed for extra time, Dzvukamanja finished Saleng’s cross from the left to decide the contest and hand Pirates their first Nedbank Cup title since 2014.

Pictured above: Orlando Pirates wideman Monnapule Saleng fights off Sekhukhune United midfielder Sammy Seabi

Image source: Sekhukhune United