Orlando Pirates qualified for a third successive cup final this season, defeating Mpumalanga Black Aces 1-0 after extra time at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night to book a place in the 2011 Nedbank Cup final.
The Buccaneers dominated the majority of the match, but had to wait until 20 minutes into extra time before Tlou Segolela finally found the back of the net. AmaZayoni goalkeeper Denis Onyango gave a magnificent performance, but even he was unable to deny the Soweto giants for a full two hours of football.
Bucs will now head to the final on 28 May and face the winner of Sunday’s semifinal between lower league sides Baroka FC and Black Leopards. It is Pirates’ third final in the 2010/11 season, having won the MTN8 and ended as runners-up in the Telkom Knockout.
Pirates welcomed back goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa from suspension, following his sending off against Free State Stars in the quarterfinals, and handed a first start to young striker Bongani Ndulula. Aces fielded both Joseph Makhanya and Denis Masina in their midfield – two players on loan from Bucs.
The match started at a fierce pace and Aces looked threatening early on, particularly from set pieces. In the tenth minute they thrice came close to opening the scoring, with Pirates’ Happy Jele, Robyn Johannes and Senzo Meyiwa each taking turns to block successive goal-bound efforts.
Pirates gradually began to find their rhythm as the half wore on, and by the 30-minute mark they were bossing the game. In the 32nd minute the home side came close to breaking the deadlock, with captain Lucky Lekgwathi powering a header on target from a corner kick, only to see a combination of Vusiwe Masondo and goalkeeper Denis Onyango scramble the ball off the goal line.
Bucs missed a glaring opportunity in the last minute of regulation time at the end of the first half. A Tlou Segolela cross from the left flank was poorly dealt with by Aces, allowing Happy Jele a clear sight of goal, but the right-back somehow hacked his effort over the crossbar from close range.
The Soweto giants continued to dominate in the second half but were unable to breach a resilient Aces defence, this despite the visitors having to substitute injured centre-back Warren Bishop and replace him with Marc Eberle.
The only time Pirates really threatened to score in the second stanza came on 77 minutes when the pace of Segolela took him past Marco da Silva to go through on goal, but Onyango came off his line quickly and denied the winger in a one-on-one situation.
Onyango was the hero again in extra time, making two exceptional saves in the first half to keep out Mark Mayambela in another one-on-one duel and deny Lekgwathi from an absolute bullet of a header.
The Ugandan goalkeeper continued his superb performance in the second half of extra time but it seemed inevitable that Pirates would score, such was the ease with which they were cutting up an Aces defence that had clearly run out of legs.
On 110 minutes the Buccaneers finally broke the deadlock. Andile Jali surged beyond two Aces defenders, drew Onyango off his line before passing for Segolela to score into an empty net. It was a brilliant piece of set-up play from the midfielder, who showed the composure in the box that his more attack-minded teammates had lacked all night.
Ndumiso Mabena almost added a second in the dying minutes; his shot was half-stopped by Onyango but continued rolling toward the goal, only for Sandile Zuke to clear it off the line with a desperate lunge.-Backpagepix