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Pirates squander chance to make ground on Champions League finish

Orlando Pirates' Thembinkosi Lorch tried every trick in the book to unlock the Chippa United defence, but met his match in Veluyeke Zulu, who was always close by the Bucs playmaker.
Orlando Pirates' Thembinkosi Lorch tried every trick in the book to unlock the Chippa United defence, but met his match in Veluyeke Zulu, who was always close by the Bucs playmaker.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates’ bid to qualify for the next edition of the Caf Champions League as DStv Premiership runners-up continued to wane as they squandered another opportunity to make ground with a 0-0 draw at home against lowly Chippa United on Wednesday.

Pirates again dominated proceedings and enjoyed the lion's share of the ball but huffed and puffed in front of their fans at Orlando Stadium, and are five points behind Royal AM, who occupy the coveted second spot that comes with qualification for the Champions League.

Chances were far and few between for Chippa and one did not need to be a football genius to figure out that the Gqeberha team came to Soweto to play for a point, and hoped to snatch victory from the few inefficient counterattacks they managed.

While the first half was a yawn, as Pirates’ domination was not in attacking areas where they could hurt Chippa, there was much improvement in the second as substitute Sammy Seabi rattled the crossbar once for the visitors and Ntsikelelo Nyauza twice for the Buccaneers.

If Pirates fail to finish second, a situation that appears increasingly likely with each game, they will have to qualify for the Champions League the hard way by winning the 2021-22 Caf Confederation Cup, where they face Libya’s Al Ahli in the semifinals next month.

Co-coaches Mandla Ncikazi and Fadlu Davids started with the same eleven that dominated and won 1-0 against Tanzania’s Simba SC at Orlando on Sunday in the second leg the Confed quarterfinal, which took the tie to 1-1 on aggregate before Pirates prevailed 4-3 on penalties. Bucs’ start against Chippa was just as electric and the finishing equally poor.

Wingers Thembinkosi Lorch and Deon Hotto tried every trick in the book to unlock the staunch Chippa backline with little success, and the twin strike force of Terrence Dzvukamanja and Kwame Peprah again threatened but fired blanks.

After Kaizer Chiefs, another team with their eyes firmly fixed on a runners-up finish, fluffed their own chance to make ground on Royal AM, being stunned 2-1 by Golden Arrows in KwaMashu in their earlier match on Wednesday, the goalless draw will be as tough to swallow for Pirates fans as it could be disastrous for the team’s targets.

While they have now moved a place above Chiefs from fifth to fourth on 40 points from 26 points, it will be an uphill battle to dislodge Royal AM, who have 45 points from the same number of matches, from second place.

It will be a high stakes encounter when Pirates and Royal face off in Chatsworth on May 8 in a match that has the potential to decide who wins the battle for runners-up.

For Chippa the away point will feel like victory as it sees Kurt Lentjies' side retain their 12th spot and move to 26 points, a comforting eight points away from automatic relegation and three from relegation playoff places. 

With second-placed Royal AM not playing until next Wednesday, Pirates will have another opportunity to revive their runners-up finish when they travel to Mbombela to face relegation-threatened second-from-bottom TS Galaxy on Monday.

Chippa will be at home to Cape Town City in their next match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Wednesday next week.

While they have now moved a place above Chiefs from fifth to fourth on 40 points from 26 games, it will be an uphill battle for Bucs to dislodge Royal, who have 45 points from the same number of matches, from second place.

It will be a high stakes encounter when Pirates and Royal face off in Chatsworth on May 8 in a match that has the potential to decide who wins the battle for runners-up.

With Royal not playing until next Wednesday, Pirates will have another opportunity to revive their runners-up push when they travel to Mbombela to face second-from-bottom TS Galaxy on Monday.

Chippa will be at home to Cape Town City at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Wednesday next week.

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