Monday, 5 November 2012

Game of the season followed by warmed balls... and Gordon's latest Bafana

Gotcha: The picture that proves Celtic goalkeeper Amour
Tignyemb moved off his line for the Manyisa penalty
IT’S not often you witness a side 3-1 up in the 90th minute of a quarter-final go crashing out of a cup competition. Yet somehow, that is exactly what habitual treble winners Orlando Pirates contrived to manage in Bloemfontein on Sunday.

Roger and out? For the Buccaneers’ hopes of defending the Telkom Knock Out it was certainly that. Comfortable progress was wrecked by TWO late Celtic goals which sees both Free State sides join the Tshwane rivals SuperSport United and Mamelodi Sundowns in the semi-finals after an epic weekend of knock-out action.
Predictably (I said so on twitter shortly before the draw) we have ended up with two derbies in the semi-finals, and I'm predicting a final at Irvin Khoza's Orlando Stadium now his beloved Pirates are out.That's what happpened in the MTN8 showdown and nobody complained. It's all about warming your balls at these draws, or so Diego Maradona told me once.  Gavin Hunt and Steve Komphela are tasked with derailing a lucrative Celtic v Sundowns final. 
Right on cue, SuperSport United midfielder Franklin Cale came up with this comforting quote after the draw: “I am happy, it is a lovely draw. I did not expect to play against Sundowns but I am happy with the draw."
But I digress. As the social networks buzzed with scathing critiques of Pirates coach Roger de Sa – particularly over his use of substitutes in perhaps the best game of the season so far – it’s worth noting blooming Celtic needed a little help to reach their semi-final against Free State Stars.
Firstly, consider the penalty that put Celtic on the scoresheet. After a scintillating free-kick from Daine Klate and a second goal from Oupa Manyisa, referee Victory Gomez surprised even the ardent home fans with his decision to penalise Siya Sangweni for a clumsy challenge on the edge of the area.
Lennox Bacela scored from the penalty spot, but within seconds in a five-goal second-half, Thabo Matlaba produced a scorcher to restore the two-goal cushion.
Then, with 90 minutes on the clock, Ruzaigh Gamildien’s head made it 3-2 amid a host of time-wasting Piratical injuries which included everything medical ailment known to man, apart from the traditional eye-patch.
And there was Botswana's Joel Mogorosi, after a ponderous Moeneeb Joseph punch, bicycle-kicking the equaliser in the fourth minute of extra-time. Pure footballing theatre which left the nation on the edge of their seats, at the Free State Stadium and at home.
Extra-time came and went without a clincher… and when it came to penalties if front of the impassioned Phunya Sele Sele fans, Celtic were perfect from Bacela to the nerveless Dominic Isaacs, who calmly clobbered the fifth and final nail in to Joseph’s sound-proofed coffin.
Celtic boss Clinton Larsen grinned: "Normally when you are trailing with minutes to go teams give up, but it was the opposite for my players. We showed a lot of character and commitment. We are starting to gel now.”
But Larsen failed to discuss the Bacela penalty during normal time – or the fact his beautifully-named Cameroon goalkeeper Patrick Amour Tignyemb, the man in the Petr Cech headgear, was a yard off his line for the decisive Manyisa penalty save in the shoot-out.
On top of that, De Sa – panned for replacing striker Collins Mbesuma with luckless Ndumiso Mabena and forced to put Lucky Lekgwathi on at full-back early on – had to contend with an injury to Andile Jali after he had made his three replacements. Jali limped through to the finish and even converted a spot kick, but in truth he was struggling through the vital stages. Perhaps that's why Gordon Igesund chose to leave him out of yet another Bafana squad today, though rumours of the reasons behind his glaring ommission continue to plague the social networks.
And then of course, we must consider history. For all their recent trophy-winning form the Pirates – who will have to lift the African Champions League, PSL and Nedbank Cup to complete a miraculous third successive treble – have not won at the Free State Stadium since 2008.
Now De Sa finds himself back in a must-win situation against reviving Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld in the PSL tomorrow night. But he does have an ace up his sleeve. The former Wits coach reveals: “Benni McCarthy will be in the squad. He scored in a friendly 2-2 draw against AmaTuks on Saturday and I can assure you that if he sits on my bench, he is fully fit.”
With one Piratical eye on the so-called spat with Bafana coach Igesund, De Sa added: “If Benni is ready to play for us, he is ready to play for anyone.”
Sadly, it all comes too early for the national squad named yesterday to face AFCON champions Zambia at Soccer City in the Mandela Challenge on November 14. We might have seen McCarthy face up against current Orlando Pirates top-scorer Collins Mbesuma.
Instead, it appears Igesund will opt for Bernard Parker and Benni's former strike partner Tokelo Rantie. Interestingly, both Wayne Sandilands and Moeneeb Josephs have been discarded as Itumeleng Khune's goalkeeping back-up with former Wits stopper Darren Keet, 23, asked to fly over from Belgium for the game.
Gordon's former Moroka Swallows striker Katlego Mashego earns a call up front, hardly a surprise considering his six goals for the Birds so far this season. There are also long-awaited recalls for Thanduyise Khuboni (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Thuso Phala (Platinum Stars) and Kermit Erasmus (Supersport United) in a squad Igesund describes as a "last chance" saloon.

Igesund claims he picked Orlando Pirates midfielder Andile Jali for the Zambia game but crossed his name off when it was revealed he would be out injured after the knee injury he sustained against Celtic on Sunday. He said: "Andile is a good player, I had him in the squad until they called this morning."
With the African Cup of Nations kicking off at Soccer City on January 19, Igesund and his No2 Serame Letsoaka will fly to England tonight to chat to foreign-based Bafana stars, and as I twittered last week, the trip WILL include a chat with Everton's Steven Pienaar.
Igesund said: "Look, we'll have a cup of coffee. I think I owe him at least that. We can't turn our backs on him. Steve has been a great ambassador for his country, he gave us 10 years of service.
“There was lots of criticism. Plenty of talk. People thought he shouldn’t be the captain. I want to ask him why he retired. It must have been a very tough decision based obviously on  being away for six weeks at a key part of the season in the UK.
“The main reason I'm flying over is to try to get my players released a week early, over Christmas. It is very important to have a relationship with these managers, we’ll try to look after each other.”
My expected starting line-up against Zambia: Khune; Ngcongca, Sangweni, Khumalo (capt), Masenamela; Myeni, Furman, Dikgachoi, Modise; Parker, Rantie.

Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs)
Darren Keet (KV Kortrijk, Belgium)
Anele Ngcongca (Racing Club Genk, Belgium)
Siyabonga Sangweni (Orlando Pirates)
Bongani Khumalo (PAOK, Greece) (captain)
Bevan Fransman (SuperSport United)
Ricardo Nunes (MSK Zilina, Slovakia)
Punch Masenamela (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Thabo Nthethe (Bloemfontein Celtic)
Dean Furman (Oldham Athletic, England)
Thanduyise Khuboni (Golden Arrows)
Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Kaizer Chiefs)
Lerato Chabangu (Moroka Swallows)
Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace, England)
Teko Modise (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Oupa Manyisa (Orlando Pirates)
Thuso Phala (Platinum Stars)
Sifiso Myeni (Orlando Pirates)
Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs)
Delron Buckley (Maritzburg United)
Bernard Parker (Kaizer Chiefs)
Katlego Mashego (Moroka Swallows)
Tokelo Rantie (Malmo FF, Sweden)
Kermit Erasmus (SuperSport United)

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