ON Friday, Itumeleng Khune was named in the Bafana Bafana squad for the African Nations Cup.
On Saturday night, he was the hero of the Telkom Knockout final penalty shootout for Kaizer Chiefs in front of 50 000 people at Loftus Versveld, pulling off three brilliant saves, despite severe cramping, for a 3-2 victory over Mamelodi Sundowns. Not a bad weekend for a 20-year-old.
After a 0-0 finish to 120 minutes of tactical, high-quality football, Khune pulled off saves from Downs’ first two penalties by Esrom Nyandoro and Peter Ndlovu, to put the Brazilians under huge pressure. Then, despite collapsing with cramps after each penalty, the talented ’keeper produced the winning save from Patrick Apataki’s kick.
Onismor Bhasera, Cyril Nzama and Kaizer Motaung slotted for Chiefs, with Mabhudi Khenyeza missing; Lerato Chabangu and Shakes Ngwenya were successful for Sundowns.
“We didn’t start [playing from] the back — we wanted to, but we couldn’t. So I had to play long balls every time and that’s where the cramps started,” Khune told Football365.co.za.
“I was worried, but the players and coaches told me I could do it so I stopped worrying about the cramps and focused.”
He added: “I couldn’t believe it — [after we won] I was crying the whole time and felt like I was dreaming”.
A tight, tactical cup final was predicted, and that was the way it turned out. It may not have been end-to-end stuff, but there were almost no errors in a high-tempo match, and the openings that were pried open required sweat, hard work and ingenuity from both sets of players. A vocal, packed stadium added to the spectacle.
Chiefs coach Muhsin Ertugral could barely contain his enthusiasm on Khune’s performance. “He is a wonderful, brave, unbelievable youngster,” the coach gushed. “We love him for that and I hope he will have a great career.”
Before the game it was Ertugral who appeared to have less options than Downs counterpart Gordon Igesund, but it was the Chiefs coach who came up with a few surprises. Ertugral introduced Derrick Spencer for his first game of the season and the central defender was man-of-the-match.
In midfield, Ertugral utilised David Mathebula, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Arthur Zwane and David Obua as an attacking quartet ahead of Tinashe Nengomashe. This only partly worked, with Khenyeza isolated as the lone forward, but the Chiefs coach’s introduction of two more strikers in Shaun Bartlett and Kaizer Motaung Jnr at the break balanced the game out and forced both teams to attack more.
“We started the game in a certain way and we wanted to come in at half time at 0-0. I think we had the game under control,” Ertugral said.
“By extra-time we had the game and especially the last 15 minutes we were very brave and we wanted it. I’m proud of these boys.”
Both teams had their chances and periods of domination. Khenyeza’s blistering shot saved by Downs ’keeper Brian Baloyi was the best chance of the first half, while substitute Ndlovu’s header from close range a minute into injury time could have wrapped it up for Sundowns. Chabangu’s great volley and Siphiwe Tshabalala’s 108th-minute shot just wide kept the chances coming in extra-time.
Downs coach Igesund was gracious in defeat. “It was a good game of football. We missed a couple of chances and especially in the second half we … started passing the ball around and we did really, really well. But when it gets down to penalties you know it’s anybody’s game.”