Orlando Pirates head coach Jose Riveiro hailed Olisa Ndah’s return from injury in their MTN8 final win and explained why Paseko Mako was benched.
Ndah returned to the Pirates team for the first time since February when he scored an own goal in the Soweto Derby defeat to Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium.
Riveiro said in the post-match press conference that he was proud of his side who won the game on penalties 3-1 after ‘the worst possible’ conditions, referring to the wind at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
The Spaniard admitted that each side who played against the wind ‘could not play the way they wanted and made it an unmemorable spectacle for fans in terms of performance but he reserved special praise for Ndah and Man of the Match goalkeeper Sipho Chaine.
“[Sundowns] were pressing very high because they know how to do it and the wind is helping so I think there were a couple of factions that we were defending in the limit, even when we have that piece of luck in some certain moments, [we did] not concede due to the exceptional job that our central defenders did today and Chaine as well,” he said.
“Olisa [was] exceptional, coming from the bench. Almost 10 months injured and he was spectacular tonight. Xoki as usual, the fullbacks as well, I think everybody I mean the midfielders the one team until they were a bit tired.
“In general, I think it was that kind of performance that probably you will not remember because of the football that we developed during the night, with our moments as well.
“But in terms of fighting commitment, and in the finals – you need to really want it, if you want it badly more than the opponent then you’re closer, it’s how Pirates play in the finals, tonight one more time – so yeah football is not only about possession and number of passes, sometimes you need other things and we did that well.”
Having lost Sibisi in the first half for a third consecutive final, in which they went on to secure the title, Riveiro admits it pushed them to the limit and that Mako was also not fully fit having sat out of several sessions this week in the build-up to the clash in Durban.
“It was a difficult moment to lose [Sibisi], we played three finals, here without Sibisi we lost him in the first moment of the game, here again, 20 minutes or something, if I’m not mistaken in the Nedbank final as well he broke his nose,” Riveiro said about the injuries.
“So it’s a curious thing, last season we only had Paseka Mako on the bench, one defender and today it was the same, we had Olisa to play in the position, but Paseka couldn’t train during the week, only yesterday.
“The good thing is that we lost Sibisi, but we have Olisa on the bench you know, you can see his level, he’s ready. Obviously, we have many positions in doubt during the week because it’s been a long period for Olisa out of the field.
“He came back against Chiefs in Derby and didn’t finish the way we wanted. After that, he got injured again. We were working a lot with him he was working a lot to be ready for these games.
“Finally he’s fully fit and ready ready to perform. So we knew that at some point he’s gonna be needed in the game not that early because like I said, once Olisa was on the field we were a bit afraid because we only had Shandu and then Hotto too in that role as a left fullback because like I said Paseko couldn’t be ready on time but he gave us fantastic 30 minutes in the end as well – as usual even in the right side.
“So you know when it’s when everybody’s focus on fully concentrated on the task they get but they can perform at that level. So yeah…”