Editor's Blog 5.12.2017 10:56 am

Cup action didn’t match the singing

Amr Gamal of Bidvest Wits challenged by Alfred Ndengane and Victor Letsoalo of Bloemfontein Celtic during the 2017 Telkom Knockout final football match between Bidvest Wits and Bloemfontein Celtic at Princess Magogo Stadium (Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

Amr Gamal of Bidvest Wits challenged by Alfred Ndengane and Victor Letsoalo of Bloemfontein Celtic during the 2017 Telkom Knockout final football match between Bidvest Wits and Bloemfontein Celtic at Princess Magogo Stadium (Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

It was a lovely evening in KwaMashu on Saturday, not too hot by Durban standards and not a breath of wind in the air.

The Telkom Knockout final, unlike many Premier Soccer League games, even had itself an atmosphere at the Princess Magogo Stadium, with a boisterous band of Bloemfontein Celtic fans behind one of the goals singing their hearts out.

It was just unfortunate that Bidvest Wits and Celtic could not produce a game of football to match the surroundings. In my editorial last week I got stuck into PSL football, and unfortunately the Clever Boys and Phunya Sele Sele gave a prime example of exactly why. There was so little inspiring attacking play, in fact the main saving grace was that Vincent Pule’s last minute goal meant no one had to endure extra time.

Even members of the Wits playing staff, without mentioning names, expressed their dismay at how bad the match was after the final had ended, and they won the darn trophy!

This is to take nothing away from coach Gavin Hunt (who himself once branded the PSL “boring” in a famous interview), who has now got the piece of domestic silverware that was missing from his trophy cabinet.

Wits certainly seem to have rediscovered their obdurate “thou shalt not pass” streak, and it is no coincidence that their best defenders have returned to fitness.

On the back of this, I fully expect the defending Absa Premiership champions, currently propping up the table, to start working their way back up towards the leaders. Wits are, after all, only 10 points off the top in a ridiculously congested season.

Celtic paid the price for a timid first half, and if they improved after the break, they could not take the few opportunities that came their way. Credit must go to Pule, who did take his opportunity, and who has made some vital contributions to Wits this season, after a mostly frustrating time since joining in 2014.

Hunt was fairly hard on Pule afterwards, saying he hadn’t “fulfilled his potential … with the goals he has missed so far … he should be top goalscorer”, though the Wits coach added: “He trains hard, he gets his head down, I can’t fault him there … I am happy for him, the last couple of years he has been in and out of the side.”

Pule, indeed, even came off the bench for Wits, but he surely deserves to start ahead of Daylon Claasen, who along with Steven Pienaar has been desperately disappointing since moving back to play in the PSL.

Phumlani Ntshangase also came off the bench on Saturday for the final throes of the match, and we speak to the young Wits midfielder in this week’s One-on-One, while we also hear from Ben Motshwari and Sifiso Hlanti on Wits’ task in their league games before the Christmas break.

Elsewhere, we interview Kaizer Chiefs legend Abe Shongwe and get the latest from across the Absa Premiership clubs, with Orlando Pirates taking on SuperSport United and Mamelodi Sundowns facing Baroka in two cracking matches this evening.

Finally, don’t forget to enter our Phakaaathi Player-of- the-Month competition on Page 6, for a chance to win R350 in airtime.

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