Lit­tle Knowl­edge good thing

But Pi­rates ready for Mu­sona

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - JONTY MARK

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.

GALLO IM­AGES

DAN­GER MAN: Kaizer Chiefs’ Knowl­edge Mu­sona

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