Leal lauds 'committed' Pirates
Julio Leal (Gallo Images)
Durban - Orlando Pirates coach Julio Leal hailed the professionalism and hunger of his players after clinching a second major trophy of the season, beating Wits 3-1 in the final in Durban on Saturday to lift the Telkom Knockout title.
Thulasizwe Mbuyane, Daine Klate and Isaac Chansa were on target for the Buccaneers, with Sifiso Myeni levelling matters briefly during the second-half, to help the Soweto giants add another trophy - their first ever league cup silverware - to their MTN8 success in September.
"Our squad is a very professional and very committed group of players," a jubilant Leal said after the match.
"Since last season they’ve been proving how much hunger they have, and tonight they came up against very good opposition and did a wonderful job."
Pirates, who won the treble last season but missed out on the Telkom Knockout, losing to Kaizer Chiefs in the final, began strongly and went in front through Mbuyane after three minutes.
Wits did equalise just after the hour mark, though their joy lasted just six minutes before Man-of-the-Match, Klate, put them back in front.
Leal felt that introducing fresh legs in Tlou Segolela and Oupa Manyisa after the hour mark was crucial to the outcome.
"We started the game well and controlled the game tactically. We created quite a few opportunities, but scored only one goal," he said.
"They came back strongly in the second-half but we managed the players and added some pace on the wings which was crucial as the game wore on and helped us to close out the game.
"I’m really happy for the squad, not only because it’s the second trophy of the season, but importantly, it's the first time that Pirates has won this trophy in the history of the competition."
Wits boss Roger de Sa was agitated by the ground conditions at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, saying he had not played under poorer conditions at any of the World Cup venues.
His side beat Pirates 3-1 in their league meeting last month.
"I can safely say out that out of the World Cup venues, this is the worst pitch we've played on," De Sa said.
"We did train here before the game, but we can’t do anything about the grass, that’s for the groundsman, and with the rain that came down, the pitch got heavier and more difficult to play on."
The inclement weather also led to teh students making several errors, especially at the back with De Sa also grateful for not being punished more.
"They came out with a lot of intensity after losing the league game. We knew it was going to be that way," he said.
"I don’t think the conditions helped us either and I feel as the rain came down it go more difficult for us because we wanted to play football and knock it around.
"We made too many mistakes to win the match and could have probably been embarrassed losing by five or six goals, but we are a young team and have got to learn from it."