Johannesburg – TS Galaxy stunned Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 in Durban Saturday to become the first second-tier club to win the South African FA Cup.
Seeking to end a record four-season trophy drought, Chiefs were floored by a sucker punch three minutes into stoppage time when substitute Zakhele Lepasa converted a penalty.
Arguing between Chiefs players and the referee delayed the taking of the spot-kick for several minutes before a sell-out 50,000 crowd in the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
But Lepasa exhibited nerves of steel as he slammed the ball into the right corner of the net while Chiefs goalkeeper Bruce Bvuma dived in the opposite direction.
Shell-shocked Chiefs, who entered the final as overwhelming favourites to lift the trophy a record-extending 14th time, reacted by laying siege to the Galaxy goalmouth.
The fourth official had indicated there would be two minutes of additional time, but more than seven minutes elapsed before the final whistle sounded.
Winning coach and former star Dan Malesela reacted to the sensational outcome by walking across the pitch and saluting thousands of Galaxy fans clad in the red colours of the team.
He then explained the build-up to the penalty that earned the club seven million rand ($485,000/435,000 euros) and a place in the 2020 CAF Confederation Cup.
“While the arguing was going on, Zakhele came to me by the touchline, asked for water, and advice as to what to do. I told him to do what he usually does from a penalty — score.
– ‘Constant pressure’ –
“Right now, I cannot tell you how I feel. The magnitude of this victory will take time to sink in.
“We were under constant pressure, especially in the second half, and I prayed that we would get just one scoring chance from a counterattack.”
Galaxy were formed only four years ago by former football agent Tim Suzaki and finished eighth in the 16-club second division this season.
Their home ground is in the eastern Mpumalanga province, but a lack of facilities forces them to train and reside in Johannesburg.
Chiefs, a club accustomed to continuous domestic success since their 1970 formation, last won a trophy four seasons ago when crowned champions.
The Soweto club sacked Italian Giovanni Solinas late last year and brought back German Ernst Middendorp 12 years after firing him for poor results.
Chiefs briefly improved only to finish ninth in the Premiership — their worst showing in the league since its 1996 debut.
But even the most disillusioned supporter of the Amakhosi (Chiefs) was convinced they would defeat Galaxy and finish the season on a high.
It was not to be, though, with poor finishing once again proving their downfall, despite signing Zimbabwean Khama Billiat and Colombian Leonardo Castro to bolster the attack.
“All I can say to the fans is sorry,” said a rattled Middendorp. “They have been fantastic and losing this final is a huge disappointment.
“We have struggled in the attacking third of the pitch since I took over and it was the same story tonight.”