The real heroes of this season were being rested for tomorrow afternoon’s Nedbank Cup semi-final clash at same venue against another Soweto giant in Orlando Pirates, who came unstuck there in a league match three months ago. A similar showing - if not even more polished - would give the club a real chance of claiming rare silverware since their Coca-Cola Cup triumph in 1994.
It’s been some drought.
“We know that for us a top eight spot was done and dusted. Unfortunately, we couldn’t achieve that target, which was never a target for us, but we had the dream,” said Stars assistant coach Bradley Carnell yesterday.
“We thought it made sense to give some of the younger boys a run because they had not been featuring much, while others got to rest. They did ever so well and we are proud of them.”
Justice Chabalala, captain Paulus Masehe, Katlego Mashego and last season’s Golden Boot winner Moeketsi Sekola, just to mention a few, will return to the starting line-up against the Buccaneers with expectations high that there could be an upset on the cards.
“I think it has been a fairytale, basically,” said Carnell.
â€œNot just for me, but the players who have established their names in the PSL. And for the coach (Giovanni Solinas), who didn’t know anybody from a bar of soap here in South Africa. I think we have created a little bit of a stir but at the moment we haven’t achieved anything except for stability, security and we weren’t dragged into relegation, which many people thought we would.
“It is due to hard work, and I will be the first to put my hand up and say the coach puts in his hours, the long hard yards.”
Should Ea Lla Koto not prevail tomorrow, it will certainly be a huge disappointment for Italian mentor Solinas and his right-hand man Carnell.
But they are the underdogs anyway, with Pirates likely to throw everything at them to try and rescue a season that went pear-shaped around Christmas, when, coincidentally, Stars ushered in a new technical team.
The Buccaneers also want to return to the CAF Confederation Cup next year and the Nedbank Cup offers them that opportunity if they win it. Pirates will still be licking their wounds following a 2-0 league defeat away to Chippa United in Port Elizabeth on the same night Stars bullied Chiefs, who had to twice come from behind to earn a point.
“We don’t really read into it because Eric (Tinkler, the Pirates coach) spoke about their logistic, having to leave PE (yesterday) and then travel to Bethlehem a day before the match,” Carnell explained. “We want to keep our momentum going.
“We know we are difficult to beat at home and we know we can put up a challenge against any team we come up against.
“It’s up to our boys to enjoy the moment and not go into their shells, but come out of them. We now have one more game to prove that we can go all the way in this competition.
“This is our final.” – The Star
Original source: Stars ready to tackle wounded Pirates