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Saturday, September 30, 2023

MTN 8: Saleng’s free kick the difference for Pirates in a final with few opportunities

Monnapule Saleng continued his hot run of form in an Orlando Pirates shirt on Saturday, looping a first half free kick over AmaZulu goalkeeper Veli Mothwa in the Bucs’ 1-0 MTN 8 final victory in Durban. The 24-year-old’s goal was all Pirates needed to secure their eleventh MTN 8 triumph in a final that was characterized by tough physical play. AmaZulu’s attacking struggles this season continued despite being the home team and the Durban club still continue to search for their first major trophy since 1992.

Pirates always looked the more likely team to score and were more willing to venture forward. After center back Nkosinathi Sibisi was forced off in the opening moments due to a rough challenge from AmaZulu’s Gabadinho Mhango, the first chance arrived when Bucs center back Olisa Ndah looped his header over the bar from an 8th minute Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo corner kick. Saleng then sent a header right at AmaZulu keeper Veli Mothwa on the sixteen minute mark.

When overaggressive play from the hosts saw AmaZulu defender Tapelo Xoki fouled out wide on the right wing in the 24th minute the crucial moment arrived. Saleng sent in a high curling ball that Mothwa failed to track, resulting in the Usuthu shot stopper being only able to helplessly flap at the ball as it nestled inside the far post for Saleng’s fifth goal in his last four matches.

In addition to Sibisi’s forced withdrawal AmaZulu had to make a first half substitution as well after Ramahlwe Mphahlele was knocked out by a challenge from Pirates keeper Richard Ofori. Indeed the medical teams were in action more than the goalkeepers it seemed as AmaZulu could only create opportunities from set pieces in their quest to level. In a second half that was lacking in fluid football the closest Usuthu came to equalizing was when halftime substitute Lehlonhonolo Majoro sent his header off the crossbar in the 64th minute after a deflected free kick led to a penalty box scramble.

Highlights of the MTN 8 final are below.

Match Highlights

Trophy Presentation