Goalkeeper Denis Onyango saved five penalty shootout kicks to help Mamelodi Sundowns win the MTN8 competition as a Covid-19 ban on spectators watching local games ended on Saturday.
The 36-year-old starred as Sundowns edged Cape Town City 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw following extra time at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
After Namibian Peter Shalulile scored to put Pretoria-based Sundowns ahead a third time in the shootout, Onyango saved from Cape Town captain Thamsanqa Mkhize to win the title decider.
“My instincts helped a lot in the shootout,” said captain Onyango after being voted man of the match. “I always thought we would win this final.
“We struggled at times against the aggression of Cape Town, but never allowed our heads to drop. It was resilience that won the trophy for us in the end.”
Two thousand spectators, fully vaccinated against coronavirus, attended the final as South Africa took a second step toward relaxing restrictions introduced in March 2020 to combat the pandemic.
The same number of spectators, all of whom had to show proof of vaccination, attended a World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia in Johannesburg this month.
Thapelo Morena gave pre-match favourites Sundowns a 24th-minute lead and Fagrie Lakay equalised on 75 minutes before a crowd including national coach Hugo Broos.
On Monday, the Belgian will reduce his squad from 36 players to 23 for World Cup qualifiers against Zimbabwe and Ghana next month and Morena and Lakay hope to retain places.
Success was particularly sweet for Sundowns as they last won the MTN8 in 2007 — four years before Kampala-born Onyango joined the club after spells with two other South African outfits.
Sundowns have won 12 domestic and two Confederation of African Football (Caf) competitions since, but until Saturday the closest they came to another MTN title was finishing runners-up twice.
The competition involves the eight highest finishers after the previous league season and offers a winner-take-all prize of R8 million.