It was time to redeem themselves and time to restore pride for the Buccaneers. It was 6th placed Orlando Pirates who had just lost 6-1 to Supersport United FC during the week vs a 12th placed Highlands Park who had drawn away to Maritzburg United midweek. But it was a different ball game because they had to switch from league to the Telkom Cup.
Muhsin Ertugral resigned after the Supersport game and his resignation was accepted. So it meant in came Augusto Palacious, with a new second assistant in Benson Mhlongo . If there was one coach that knows the culture and the playing style of Pirates, it’s him; he gives players freedom on the pitch but disciplines them off the pitch.
Looking at the line up, the new coach kept faith in Brighton Mhlongo. I thought he was a little low in confidence coming into the game and you could see it in the first half because I felt they were balls that he could have caught but he punched away. But he grew into the game and became better as the game went on making crucial saves. There was nothing much he could have done with the goal he conceded beside to maybe communicate better and organize his defense better. But sometimes things happen so fast there is no time to talk.
In defense there was 1 for forced change with the suspension to Happy Jele in came Justice Chabalala, at right back Nyauza was dropped for Sikhakhane. It meant Chabalala partnered Gyimah at centre back and Matlaba kept his place at left back. The issue I still have is the defenders don’t put pressure on the man on the ball. I’m talking about when opposition wingers are crossing or when striker are receiving, there isn’t enough pressure to force them into mistakes. But that’s something the coach can working on. Lack of communication and responsibility led to the Highlands Park goal, because Mvala headed to score though he was surrounded by three Pirates defenders and no one was picking him up. Palacious needs to work on that with his defenders, I understand he only had two days with the team coming to these game.
In midfield, captain Manyisa came back in place of Mothupa who didn’t take the chances he was given. Memela came back for Nooriden who dropped to the bench, Makola, Sarr and Rakhale kept their places. I was on Rakhale’s case last game, it was like he read my column because I was saying he is no more going past players and creating chances. But on the day he did exactly that, you would see he was enjoying himself on the pitch on the day and he was quick enterprising, played with lots of freedom and he created chances for his team mates. It was his quick thinking to play a quick free kick that led to the second goal. He was one of the best performers on the day. Makola had a much improved game compared to his last two games versus Chiefs and Supersport. He was in the number 10 role, he had an assist in Ndoro’s goal, he crossed and that was his second assist in the season. He needs to push his assists or the number of chances he creates for his teammates up, especially playing in the number 10 role. Makola was man of the match and with the talent he has, I think there is still room for improvement. Memela worked hard; it was his well taken free kick that led to Mbara putting the ball in his own net. I feel he compliments Matlaba very well because he is tactically disciplined and covers for Matlaba when he goes on the offensive. Manyisa played well, he looked fresh, he was asking for the ball more and started attacks. Sarr broke down Highlands moves and this is one players you can’t question when it comes to his work ethic, but under Palacious he will definetly improve tactically and technically. He had a good game overall on the day.
Upfront my main man kept his place, he can’t stop scoring this season, he has now taken his tally to 8 goals in all competitions with his strike on the day. Beside the goal, I loved his movements on the day, he drifted wide at times to create space for himself and his on coming midfielders. That created problems for the opposition defenders, he is smart, has quick feet and he is intelligent in and around the box. Given a sniff, he finishes.
Nooriden came on for Memela who got tired towards the end, but you would see he is still adjusting to the new tactics and the new coach. When his is on the pitch, he brings pace and excitement and I thought he looked threatening. Gabuza came on for Makola but there was not enough time, but with him you are assured one thing, which is lots of energy and workrate. With 8 minutes to go, Palacious made a tactical change withdrawing Rakhale for Shitolo to close the game and insure Pirates goes through to the next round.
Overall I thought not the greatest performance, but coming from a 6-1 lose midweek I understood the cautious approach in the first half, they looked better in the second half. The positives were the structures looked better, tactically they looked more organized, there was energy and a spring in the team performance. The spirit looked better, I think it can only get better as the players try to impress the new coach. All the Buccaneers can smile after the hiding in midweek. Great start coach.