Supersport Utd v Platinum Stars, Saturday 29th November 2014, 3.30pm

1- opening shot

It was cup final time again, this time the Telkom Knockout between Supersport United and Platinum Stars. There are three domestic cup competitions in South Africa and I suppose the Telkom Knockout is the equivalent of the League Cup in terms of prestige. It’s limited to the sixteen PSL clubs and so it doesn’t take a lot of winning, with just a three match run to the final.

I’m beyond watching all that road to Wembley style build-up these days, which is just as well really as the nature reserve that Jen and I were staying at didn‘t have any tellies. It did have plenty of wildlife though and on a pre-match early morning walk we got within about fifteen yards of some giraffes, spotted a few monkeys and in the highlight of the morning watched a black-backed jackal run up a gully and away over the ridge we’d just come down.

Black-backed Jackal.

Black-backed Jackal.

Jackals are regarded as a bit of a nuisance by South African farmers as they’ll snack on new-born stock in the manner of a Geordie let loose in Greggs. When I went hunting during the 2010 World Cup I was told I could shoot as many jackals as I wanted to, for free. I’m glad we didn’t see any though, I like dogs and they like me.

The Telkom Knockout final was held at the neutral venue of Orlando Stadium, home of the Pirates. We’d been before so I knew about the underground parking and our advance ticket allowed us to just drive up to the stadium and park inside, under the grandstand. That avoided a lot of traffic chaos outside of the ground and was a hundred rand well spent.

Fans on their way in.

Fans on their way in.

Neither of the finalists are traditionally well supported and the crowd was supplemented by plenty of neutrals. Or at least plenty of fans of rival teams. There was a whole group of Kaizer Chiefs supporters behind one goal, all dressed identically and, I suspect, singing their own teams songs all game.

Others wore their own teams shirts or hats.

Contender for hat of the day.

Contender for hat of the day.

Most of the tickets were forty rand general admission, but we’d splashed out on eighty rand (£4.50) grandstand seats. After all, it was a cup final. For the first half though we just sat in the cheap seats behind one of the goals. There was a threat of rain and we were happy enough with somewhere under the overhang of the stand above.

The upper tier wasn’t opened but even so, there were enough free seats for just about anyone who wanted some shade to find it. To our right was a group that seemed predominantly Platinum Stars fans. In their midst was an impressive brass band. They even had a couple of tubas. It all seemed very Spanish.

One day, Red Faction will have progressed to this.

One day, Red Faction will have progressed to this.

Platinum stars opened the scoring just before the half hour with a well-taken goal from Malawian striker Robert Ng’ambi. I’ve had an irrational dislike of Malawians ever since living next door to one in a bedsit in London thirty years ago. That fella would put his record player on repeat and then fall asleep leaving the same song playing loudly until the early hours. Maybe enough time has passed for me to let it go.

Supersport are in white.

Supersport are in white.

Supersport were level soon enough with what appeared to be a fairly soft penalty. The ref hadn’t seemed interested initially, but I think the lino gave him the nod. Clayton Daniels tucked it away tidily enough.

One each.

One each.

We were sat behind a group of Supersport fans, or at least we were for some of the time. They kept getting up and moving to other parts of the ground, only to return a few minutes later. Just sit still and watch the match. The ones that did stay celebrated the equaliser with some arse-wiggling dancing.

Supersport fans celebrate the equaliser.

Supersport fans celebrate the equaliser.

The teams were level at the break and at that point we moved to the grandstand along the side. The second half was a lot cagier than the first. I don’t think the teams were necessarily playing for extra time and/or penalties, but it wasn’t the end to end affair that the first half had been and neither team seemed unhappy with the draw at the end of ninety minutes.

As we approached the end of the first period of extra time, Supersport took the lead with their second penalty of the game, Clayton Daniels again making no mistake.

Supersport celebrate again.

Supersport celebrate again.

I thought that goal would be enough to clinch the trophy but there was a lot more to come. Within a minute Mogakolodi Ngele had equalised for Platinum Stars and with the smiles barely wiped from the faces of the Supersport fans it was Stars turn to win a penalty and give themselves a chance of going three-two up.

Eleazer Rodgers failed to take the opportunity though, or rather Supersport keeper Ronwen Williams denied him with a double save keeping the follow-up out too. I’d though Williams had looked a bit suspect at times, particularly with the ball at his feet, but he did the business when it mattered.

Saved penalty.

He shot, he missed…

The penalty drama seemed to tilt the momentum back to Supersport and in the second period of extra time Thuso Phala cut in from the right and after holding off a defender planted the ball into the far corner in a way that reminded me of Mark Viduka.

It all got a bit frantic in the final few minutes but Platinum Stars couldn’t force an equaliser and it was time for more Supersport dancing as they took the trophy.

 

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