Highlands Park coach Owen Da Gama has described how his side were aided in overcoming Orlando Pirates in the MTN8 quarterfinal on Saturday.
Highlands shocked Pirates with a 1-0 defeat to eliminate the Soweto giants from the opening round of the MTN8 as they reached the semi-finals of the competition for the first time in their history.
The Lions of the North were perhaps aided by the unsettling news of Milutin Sredojevic’s departure less than 24 hours before kick-off, but three forced subs inside the first 61 minutes looked as though The Buccaneers would ultimately have the advantage.
However, an 82nd minute strike from substitute Wayde Jooste, who was set up by another substitute Marks Munyai, saw the Tembisa-based side over the line as Da Gama credited external forces for the outcome.
“It was always going to be difficult when you’ve got forced changes, but as the football gods will have it, Marks Munyai came on as a forced sub and crossed the ball for Wayde Jooste to score the goal after he came on as a forced sub,” noted Da Gama.
“So, in a way it helped us but it was not the way we had planned it. We really wanted to come out in full attack, with a lot of pace and we knew [Tendai] Ndoro would give us 60-70 minutes and then we would bring on some pacey players, but unfortunately, we couldn’t do that."
Da Gama further revealed en early prognosis of the injuries sustained by Lindokuhle Mbatha, Limbikani Mzava and Makhehleni Makhaula that forced them off the pitch.
“It’s unfortunate because we don’t have a very big squad – Mzava has a serious injury, Mbatha got eight stitches and Makhaula also has a serious Achilles injury, so I just feel for them because they’ve worked so hard to get into the team and now it’s injuries. But that happens in football; injuries are part of the game.”