Bucs up their near-perfect defensive work
Orlando Pirates’ near-perfect defensive work in their goalless stalemate against Tunisian giants Esperance at the weekend was arguably their season’s best in the specified discipline so far.
Pirates may not have conceded in their previous Caf Champions League Group B against FC Platinum of Zimbabwe (0-0) and Guinean heavyweights Horoya (3-0) respectively, but their density at the back against Esperance was even more distinguished.
With captain Happy Jele not in the match-day squad and perhaps rested for the eagerly anticipated Soweto derby against arch-nemesis Kaizer Chiefs at the FNB Stadium in Soweto on Saturday (3.30pm), Alfred Ndengane partnered Marshal Munetsi in the heart of defence, making a solid pairing.
Before missing the Esperance clash at the Orlando Stadium, Jele had started all Bucs’ matches this season, the only player with that feat. It will be intriguing to see if coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic reinstates his skipper to the starting XI against Amakhosi.
Pirates’ defence has always been under scrutiny this season.
Before the Esperance match, the Soweto powerhouse had only kept nine clean sheets in 30 matches across competition, conceding 26 goals in the process. Accepting their supremacy against the Tunisian giants, where a number of referee’s decision did not go their way, Sredojevic has challenged his troops to be more bullish in the Soweto derby.
“In all aspects of the game we outplayed the opponent,” he said.
“Now we need to go back and plan for derby against Chiefs.
“We need to be more ruthless. That match will demand more than we gave today [on Saturday].’’
The Sea Robbers dispatched Chiefs 2-1 in the first round last October, before dumping them out of the Telkom Knockout in the semifinals via the same scoreline a month later.
Just two days after the Soweto derby, Pirates will clash with Esperance away in the return leg.
Sredojevic expects the defending champions to be a different side than the one they drew with at Orlando Stadium, feeling they will utilise home advantage to the fullest.