Marques makes his mark
ZECA Marques and his Moroka Swallows team have stepped out of the shadow of Gordon Igesund by reaching the MTN8 final, the new Birds boss said after his charges' semifinal victory against Mamelodi Sundowns at Dobsonville stadium on Sunday.
Swallows reached the final in swashbuckling style, drawing the first leg 3-3 and on Sunday producing a devastating three-goal burst in the opening 20 minutes to eventually run out 3-2 winners (6-5 on aggregate). They will meet SuperSport United in the final on September 22.
Igesund worked a near-miracle by taking Swallows from near-relegation in 2010-11 to PSL runners-up last season. It was never going to be easy for Marques, who was Igesund's assistant, to fill the four-time league winner's shoes when Igesund left in the off-season to become Bafana Bafana coach.
Marques said reaching the final would give his side the confidence they needed for the season.
"The pressure on me as coach stays and will always be there, but I can tell you this: I love it when a plan comes together," he said.
"There's nothing like proving people wrong. That's what motivates me. I keep telling my players we've got a lot to prove this year.
"I'll keep driving that because it is not over yet - this is just the beginning. After today [Sunday] we've got to focus on the final. After the final we've got Orlando Pirates in the league, and then we've got the rest of the season."
Swallows' victory in the two legs against Downs followed a 3-1 opening defeat by Platinum Stars in the Absa Premiership.
Speculation was that an ageing Swallows squad might not have another successful year left in them. Marques said this cup run, where they also overpowered AmaZulu 2-0 in the first round, proves the Birds can be competitive this season.
"Fortunately, I've got a great group of players who are very mature and still very ambitious, and they want to go out there and prove people wrong," the coach said.
"Because the age factor always comes up, we've got to show people age is just a number. It motivates us, and now that we're in a final we've laid the foundation for the rest of the season.
"We know it's not going to be easy. It's about raising your game and playing above yourself. We saw Lerato Chabangu win man-of-the-match three games in a row now and this is what delights me."
Sundowns coach Johan Neeskens admitted his frustration at again conceding soft goals. The Brazilians have let in eight goals in three games - six over both legs of the MTN8 against Swallows and two in a midweek league fixture against Kaizer Chiefs.