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JOHANNESBURG — Lamontville Golden Arrows coach Manqoba Mngqithi faces a new challenge after his side destroyed Ajax Cape Town 6-0 in a one-sided MTN8 final played at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.
He admitted it would be a tough task to bring his players back to earth ahead of their Premier Soccer League clash against Kaizer Chiefs at the same venue on Wednesday night.
Arrows’ victory saw the Umlazi-based team pick up their first trophy in their eight years competing in the PSL, and was also the first trophy for a KZN club since Manning Rangers won the inaugural PSL title under Gordon Igesund in 1997.
It was also a first trophy and tremendous vindication for Mngqithi in his still brief coaching career at the top level.
The former Howick School teacher, having been a Maritzburg City assistant coach and headed the UKZN-Durban team, was given his chance when being promoted from assistant to head coach by Arrows former CEO, the late Rocky Madlala, after Khabo Zondo was fired in January 2007. Last season Mngqithi steered an Arrows side capable on their day of playing some of the league’s most explosive football to fifth place.
“It will be difficult [to motivate my players] but the fact that we play a big club like Chiefs makes my job a little easier as it is never a problem motivating players against the bigger clubs,” Mngqithi said.
Arrows were devastating against Ajax, but the up-and-coming Mngqithi was not surprised.
“I planned on scoring five goals — six was a bonus,” he said, “but we could easily have scored 10. It was a fantastic performance.”
The coach said his success story is an example of what can happen when local coaches are given a chance in the PSL.
“Coaches like me struggled to get a break and thankfully Arrows allowed me the chance, for which I am grateful,” Mngqithi said.
“I had a plan and they accepted it and it is now starting to come together this season.”
Part of that plan, said the 38-year-old coach, is to reach another two finals this season, but he stressed it was now time to focus on their league campaign, where he expects Arrows to be more competitive.
“This win will raise the profile of Arrows. It will show we are not a team to stop others, but one that can win trophies,” Mngqithi said.
“… We have had skeptics criticising our tactics and style of play. Well I think we answered our critics once and for all on the pitch.
“The problem in the build-up to the final was that every player was desperate to play in it and our league form suffered because of the enthusiasm for the final. We lacked concentration in league games, but that is now over.
“It shows that we are a side to be reckoned with now that we have got our first piece of silverware by winning 6-0. This is a new and promising chapter in Arrows’s history and we need to try and improve on the fifth place we finished in the league at the end of last season.
“This victory in the MTN8 competition will work wonders for the players’ confidence and spirits.”
Ajax caretaker coach Jan Pruijn was crestfallen and admitted that his players were never in the game.
“There were 11 hungry players on the field at the start of the game and they all wore yellow jerseys, not Ajax’s red ones,” Pruijn said.
“I saw from the first minute we were going to struggle. We did not expect Arrows to attack us like they did.”
Pruijn, who has taken over temporarily after Muhsin Ertugral left to coach in Turkey, admitted the loss of injured captain Brett Evans was a blow and he made a mistake of playing winger Franklyn Cale in that position.
“Cale did not work out at left back. I realised in the first 20 minutes things were going badly,” Pruijn said.
“It was an embarrassing defeat and all I could do in the last 20 minutes was look at the clock, wishing the final whistle would blow.”
Pruijn has to pick up the pieces for Ajax’s league clash against Moroka Swallows in Cape Town on Wednesday night. — Sapa.