Telkom KO tight semi-final clashes

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Matsatsantsa a Pitori and Ea Lla Koto did so in the nerve-wrecking atmosphere of penalties. Now, only two matches stand between these four clubs and being champions.

ExtraStrong looks at the semi-finals that will be played on the weekend of 25-27 this month.

SuperSport United v Orlando Pirates

Augusto Palacios’ eyes widened and his voice went up a notch when Gordon Igesund told him that the Buccaneers would meet either Kaizer Chiefs or Free State Stars in the semi-finals of the Telkom Knockout. Igesund had made a mistake because the draw was yet to be conducted. It wasn’t an automatic outcome like he had suggested.

Palacios' reaction was a clear indication he feels Pirates aren’t ready for a high-profile game as a Soweto Derby in the last four.

Pirates’ 2-1 win over Highlands Park showed that the Buccaneers are still a work in progress, more so under a man who didn’t spend pre-season with them after Muhsin Ertugral’s abrupt resignation.

Palacios has been at the helm for less than a week since taking over on Wednesday afternoon. His immediate task was to ensure the players forget about their 6-1 drubbing from Matsatsantsa, which led to Ertugral calling it quits.

Njenje, as the former Peruvian World Cup player is commonly known, changed their training time, menu and even the time of the team talk. But that embarrassing loss isn’t likely to go away soon, especially after Pirates were drawn with SuperSport. This match will be Palacios’ biggest test. The Pretoria side is unbeaten in nine games, having quickly turned things around after losing to Mamelodi Sundowns in the MTN8. Pirates, on the other hand, have struggled for consistency. Their defence has been leaking goals, while only Tendai Ndoro has regularly found the net. Palacios will work on those issues during the week and a half-long international break before Pirates try to exorcise the demons of Mbombela. Even though they might say otherwise, revenge will dominate Pirates’ thinking process leading up to this game.

Cape Town City v Free State Stars

An appearance in the final and succeeding there will be huge for both clubs. The Capetonians aren’t even a year old after being 'born' when John Comitis bought Mpumalanga Black Aces’ status. Their first cup match was a huge success, as they beat the renowned cup kings of South Africa, Chiefs, in the MTN8. But they couldn’t get past the eventual champions Bidvest Wits in the two-legged semi-finals.

City have gradually improved since then, holding Pirates in a match they should have won before beating African champions Sundowns. Their struggle has been their inconsistency against so-called small teams. City had to win a see-saw battle with Baroka 4-3 to reach the last four.

Ea Lla Koto had a bigger fight in the quarter-finals. Twice they led Chiefs, only to lose those advantages. Stars eventually prevailed after winning the penalty shootout. Reaching the final would be a huge swing for a club that was up for sale at the start of the season. A lot of players jumped ship during that time.

Giovanni Solinas returned to weave his magic once more and take Stars to a second successive semi-final appearance after he did the same in the Nedbank Cup.

“We need to keep our feet on the ground and continue to work hard,” Solinas said.

@extrastrongsa

The Star

Original source: Telkom KO tight semi-final clashes

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