Rafa van der Vaart was delighted to end his free-kick drought with a fine opener against Orlando Pirates on Tuesday night.
The Dutch maestro revealed afterwards that it was at least a year since his last direct strike from a free-kick.
Rafa stepped up from the right corner of the penalty area and curled into the top-left corner to open the scoring against the South African champions.
“Finally I scored a free-kick!” smiled Rafa. “It was a long time ago since the last one, almost a year. I was delighted with that.”
Things looked good at that point in our second match of the Vodacom Challenge in the impressive Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
However, we failed to capitalise on a couple more opportunities and were rocked when the Pirates hit back with an equaliser from Happy Jele completely out of the blue five minutes before half-time.
Niko Kranjcar had an effort cleared off the line in the second half but we weren’t as fluent in our play as it ended 1-1.
“It was a good test for us,” added Rafa. “Pirates have a good team, they are strong and in the end, perhaps a draw was a fair result.
“It’s pre-season and we showed in the first half that we’re a good team, we played well but at the end of the first half they scored a bit of a lucky goal and they got stronger.
“Overall, a draw is fine. We can always play better but it’s better to lose or draw in pre-season than at the start of the Premier League.”
Rafa said he was pleased with his personal progress in pre-season. “I’ve played two lots of 45 minutes and I’m quite happy with that. I can improve, but that’s normal at this stage.”