Simiso Bophela has been one shining light for Orlando Pirates over the last week. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Simiso Bophela has been one shining light for Orlando Pirates over the last week. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates struggling to wake up from worst nightmare

By Herman Gibbs Time of article published Oct 21, 2021

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Cape Town - The goal drought has become Orlando Pirates' worst nightmare, and there is no end in sight ahead of Sunday's CAF Confederation Cup match against Congolese side Diables Noirs in Orlando.

On Wednesday, Pirates banked a goalless draw against Maritzburg City in a DStv Premiership match in Pietermaritzburg. A few days earlier, they came away with the same result in a Confederation Cup match against Congolese side Diables Noirs in Brazzaville.

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Pirates have of late, played four matches and have scored one goal during that time.

After Wednesday's match, Pirates interim co-coach Fadlu Davids said it was hugely frustrating that the team could not find a way past the Maritzburg defence even though his team had a one-man advantage for the last half hour of the match.

"It was quite disappointing in the first half not to take advantage of the opportunities we created," said Davids.

"You have to give credit to the opponent in terms of their defensive display, and then you have to be creative. You must unlock this block with which you are presented. It falls on us to be able to unlock this defence line.

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"We tried to go through the centre, which was not possible. We tried to go with extreme width, and that also was not possible. In the end, we were very unfortunate not to get the goal to unlock the game.

"It is more of two points lost than one point gained."

One Pirates player, however, who did put a smile on David's face was debutant 21-year-old midfielder Simiso Bophela, a second-half substitute for Bandile Shandu.

"These playing opportunities come, of course so many with CAF and PSL matches," said Davids. "Some players are not available or are not registered for CAF. Hence, you must change and keep the players fresh. You must find the best player to be able to do the job on the day.

"We cannot complain about players who are not available [Thembinkosi Lorch, Tshegofatso Mabasa and Vincent Pule are all on the injury list]. I really must put the trust in the players who are available. We build them up and their confidence. They will have game time and allow them to display their skills.

"It was a really good debut for the youngster - Bophela. I am happy for him It was a difficult game where he was facing two skilled players. Usually, he can go in a one-against-one situation and unlock the defence."

On Sunday, Pirates will host Diables Noir in the second leg of the Confederation Cup, and at least three players showed good form against Maritzburg to cement places in the run-on XI.

Left-back Paseka Mako was solid in defence and had the better of the dangerous Maritzburg striker Bongokuhle Hlongwane. He closed him down with close marking and gave him little space to manoeuvre. Had a few overlapping runs but nothing came of his feeds into the goalmouth.

Goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane kept another clean sheet although he was rarely tested. He did well with his kicks upfield and reached his teammates to set up attacking sorties in the opposition half.

Nigerian centre back Olisa Ndah was a rock in Pirates' defence. He stood his ground when opponents threatened in the striking zone and was a master in the aerial duels. He also provided opportunities for counter-attacking options.

@Herman_Gibbs

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