Rare honesty as AmaZulu break Sekhukhune home run

CHIBUIKE Ohizu, left, of Sekhukhune United challenged by Riaan Hanamub of AmaZulu FC during the 2024 Nedbank Cup match in Polokwane. | BackpagePix

CHIBUIKE Ohizu, left, of Sekhukhune United challenged by Riaan Hanamub of AmaZulu FC during the 2024 Nedbank Cup match in Polokwane. | BackpagePix

Published Mar 16, 2024


YOU ARE very rarely going to get as honest an assessment of a match as was given by the coaches of Sekhukhune United and AmaZulu FC after their Nedbank Cup round of 16 encounter at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Thursday evening.

A common trend is for the losing coach to look for excuses and the winner to lavish praise – sometimes undue – on his team. And it is often a very emotional affair.

The sobriety of both Pablo Franco and Lehlohonolo Seema after Usuthu knocked Babina Noko out of the country’s premier club knockout competition courtesy of a 2-0 victory was refreshing.

Deep in the bowels of the Polokwane arena the two men analysed the match with such uncommon honesty they could well have been uninvolved observers.

In praising his team for their effort, Franco preached ‘perspective’ to a media corps obsessed with results.

“You are not seeing me today being over the moon (because of the win) or sad two days ago (after their 1-1 draw with SuperSport United in the league). I understand that results for you guys are always important, but we are working on things. We are competing well, playing football better and better if you compare to last season.”

The victory was indeed an improvement on the previous campaign’s showing: “We are progressing to the quarter-final, it didn’t happen last season … they lost at this stage against a second division team (Dondol Stars). Today we are playing away, against one of the best teams in the league (Sekhukhune were unbeaten at home in eight matches prior to Thursday night) and it could have been four or five. We defended so good, and we had player-of-the-match Veli (Mothwa) who played an amazing game. It was a great day for the team.”

Goalkeeper Mothwa was splendid as he thwarted numerous attacks by a Sekhukhune side looking to make amends for having gifted their opposition two goals. The first one scored by Junior Dion should not have been allowed as he used his outstretched arm to direct the ball into the net.

“I didn’t see it,” Franco said. “We were lucky. You tell me if it was a handball.”

The second one was courtesy of a howler by Sekhukhune goalkeeper Renaldo Leaner who failed to control a back pass and gifted Victor Letsoalo the ball to score into the open goals.

“They got the two goals from us. I think those were soft, soft goals,” Seema lamented. “We did not defend the way we were supposed to and we got punished.”

As much as they made a fight of it, it looked like one of those nights that the home team were never going to score, Seema acknowledged.

“I am happy this game is over because it was starting to get to me. I always try to be calm, but I could see we were not going to score. We could have played for two days, and we were not going to score. So, I wanted it to finish at 2-0 so that we could go and regroup. It showed that we needed this break that is coming so the guys can go rest and be with their families so we can restart again.”

He admitted that in cup games, it is all about taking your chances.

“The cup game is about character, the fight. It is about the team that will make the least mistakes and today we made more mistakes than AmaZulu did and it’s just that they scored.”