Praise for players despite Stellies exit

football24 September 2023 20:06| © Mzansi Football
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Stellenbosch players © Gallo Images

Stellenbosch’s young makeshift squad can be proud of their performance against Orlando Pirates in the MTN8 on Soweto on Sunday despite not reaching next month’s final, said coach Steve Barker after the semifinal second leg.

Pirates lost 1-0 at the Orlando Stadium but after a 2-1 win away in the first leg in Cape Town three weeks ago advanced on the away goals rule after the tie ended 2-2 on aggregate.

“A lot of players got an opportunity today to put their hands up. We started with six players that were playing in the DStv Diski Challenge two, three years ago, so a very young squad out there and they can be very proud of what they've done today, to take Pirates to the brink.

“Almost getting into a final and having played them now three times, beating them twice.”

Stellenbosch beat Pirates at home at the start of the new DStv Premiership in early August.

“At the end of the day the difference turned out to be the away goal which they scored in additional time in Cape Town to make it 2-1 after we played the majority of the match down to 10 men.

“I think we've shown that we can compete with the bigger teams. It's now just really important for us to refocus on our league campaign. We haven't made the final so yeah, bittersweet. We won the battle today, but lost the war. I’m happy with the performance, very pleased with the performance. Proud of the performance but obviously disappointed that we've come so close again to a final but we haven't got over the line.”

Barker felt his side, with injuries and suspension severely weakening them, were the equal of their much fancied hosts.

“I thought we started the game really well. I thought the plan and structure that we set out to achieve frustrated Pirates, and they weren't able to really play through (Phillip) Ndlondlo or (Sephelo) Baloni, as well as keeping players like (Monapule) Saleng and (Patrick) Maswenganyi quiet.

"We put on a lot of good pressure, and then on transition, and sometimes with the early ball over the top, causing problems. So I thought the first half was really solid, good performance. We probably created far more chances in the first half than we did in the second haldf. We were unlucky not to maybe sneak a second goal,” he added.