Durban – Mamelodi Sundowns thumped a 10-man Orlando Pirates 4-0 on their way to claiming their first-ever Carling Black Label Cup at the FNB Stadium on Saturday evening.
Sundowns showed ruthless professionalism as they capitalised on Pirates going a man down, with Siphelele Mkhulise scoring the opener in the 23rd minute.
And 10 minutes later, Sundowns doubled their advantage as an unfamiliar face in Grant Kekana popped up in the Pirates’ penalty area to extend his side’s advantage.
The central defender gambled after a short corner was taken and lurked in-between the Pirates’ defenders. His anticipation saw him found by Aubrey Modiba with a delightful low cross and he tapped into an empty net.
It was one-way traffic in the first half, and the Buccaneers looked out of their depth. It came as no surprise when youngster Cassius Mailula scored his second goal of the day and Sundowns’ third in the 35th minute.
The Brazilians took their foot off the pedal in the second half and were only able to add one more goal through Mailula again, who dropped a few bodies before curling past Mpontshane midway through the second stanza.
The opportunity to battle Pirates couldn't have come sooner for Sundowns as they sought to avenge their MTN8 semi-final humbling of a few weeks ago.
The format of the one-day competition was always going to favour teams with the greatest depth and quality, meaning Mamelodi Sundowns were already prime favourites to have enough in their locker to go all the way.
Club captain Denis Onyango took his place in goals while Tebogo Mokoena, Sipho Mbule and Mkhulise slotted into midfield after watching the semi-final from the stands.
The match began as expected, with both teams trying to dominate possession of the ball and looking for openings, but incredibly reluctant to release numbers going forward, wary of the dangers of a counter-attack.
The warning signs were there for coach Jose Riveiro's men, and the best of them came through Bradley Ralani in the opening seven minutes.
The veteran winger found space in the Pirates’ danger zone and connected well with Mbule’s Flick, but Siyabonga Mpontshane was on hand to make a good save.
The Sea Robbers were dealt a huge blow halfway through the first half as defender Tapelo Xoki was punished for a reckless challenge on Domingo, leaving the referee with no choice but to send him off.
Going a man down wasn't the only setback coach Riveiro had to contend with, but it was the fact that he only had one natural defender in his backline, Sandile Mthethwa, who hadn't kicked a ball for Pirates in competitive football.
The thought of playing Sundowns immediately after the World Cup break would have been at the back of coach Riveiro's mind, and he would have wanted to use this match as a practice run.
However, the quick unravelling of his side against the vicious Sundowns made it a horrible watch for everyone associated with the Buccaneers.
The two sides will take a month's hiatus and will collide once more before the year ends, with Pirates travelling to Sundowns in a league encounter on New Year's Eve.