Little Knowledge good thing
But Pirates ready for Musona
THE LAST time Soccer City hosted a major cup final, on a freezing July night that no one who was there will ever forget, a certain Iberian nation was sent into a festive, worldbeating frenzy.
Tonight, the party will be rather closer to home, but only for one half of nearby Soweto, as Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates face off in the Telkom Knockout final (kick off 8.15pm).
The giant calabash has got used to hosting the derby, with this the fourth competitive meeting of the Amakhosi and the Buccaneers here this season (in total, in 2010, this will be a ridiculous sixth time Chiefs and Pirates have played each other).
Out of all these meetings, however, this is on the grandest scale yet, with a trophy, and R4million in prize money on the table, as well as a notable psychological boost for the rest of the season.
Thus far in the 2010/11 campaign, the record reads one win for Pirates, one for Chiefs, and one draw. Tonight’s final is, in other words, incredibly tough to call.
Chiefs will go in as slight favourites, on the back of their comfortable 3-1 Absa Premiership win over the Buccaneers only last month.
In Knowledge Musona, they have the league’s striking whizzkid, a mercurial talent, who has already scored three times against Pirates this season.
If Pirates are as generous in their defending of Musona as they were last month, there can only be one winner.
“I don’t think they can stop him ... they can try but I doubt if they will succeed,” was Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic’s view on any special plans Pirates might have for the Zimbabwean forward.
It is, however, hard to see Lucky Lekgwathi suffering the same defensive meltdown against Musona as he did last month. The Bucs captain has generally been solid for Pirates this season, and coach Ruud Krol is also unlikely to play him out of position at left back again tonight.
It is particularly harsh to judge Lekgwathi on one bad game, when you consider that his two goals have been key to Pirates’ Telkom Knockout campaign.
The entire Pirates back four, indeed, will surely have their concentration levels up a notch on their previous derby debacle. Krol will probably point out the way Pirates allowed Chiefs and Musona just one goal across two legs of the MTN8 semifinal, going on to beat Swallows in the final, their first knockout trophy in about 10 years.
The Bucs will now hope, that a little like London buses, after an age of waiting, another knockout trophy will arrive in quick succession.
Pirates have plenty of gamechangers of their own, with Andile Jali in exceptional form all season, a constant torrent of energy in midfield, Daine Klate producing a supply line lacking from Buccaneers teams in the past, and Nigerian Ezenwa Otorogu suddenly hitting striking form of his own, with three league and cup goals in his past three matches.
Then again, Chiefs are by no means just a one-man team, with Bafana stars like Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Siphiwe Tshabalala also expected to come to the fore on this grandest of stages.
“Shaba” has battled a bit this season to recapture his World Cup form, but don’t bet against him finding his best in the pressure cooker of a cup final.
Chiefs also generally have a far better knockout record than the Buccaneers, and beat them on penalties the last time these two sides met in a cup final, in the 2006 Absa Cup.
All in all, both sides would have done well to practise their penalties this week, particularly Pirates, who also failed to score a single spot kick against Chiefs in the shootout for their Telkom Knockout semifinal last season.
Perhaps, indeed, Pirates would be better off hoping for their own Andres Iniesta moment this evening.
DANGER MAN: Kaizer Chiefs’ Knowledge Musona