Concentration is really costing my beloved Orlando Pirates. Let me just take you back to the past game… The Buccaneers conceded in the last seconds against Baroka FC when Oscarine Masuluke’s overhead kick ended in the back on the net. For someone reading this article and doesn’t really know the players, Masuluke is a goalkeeper who went up for the corner because it was basically the last play of the game, and he ended up scoring a spectacular goal which went viral after the game. So it meant instead of securing 3 points from that game, Pirates ended up only getting 1 point, and thus lost 2 points because of lack of concentration. While I am still addressing the concentration issue, I am reminded of a game between Pirates vs Platinum Stars, where Kunene scored; again, from a corner in the last seconds of that game. Poor concentration in the dying moments cost them 2 points, as they left with 1 point in the bag.
Coming to the last game, the 6th placed Pirates played against the rock-bottom Highlands Park. The Sea Robbers were again robbed of 2 points, because they were leading the game only to conceded in the last 10 minutes; and the game to ended with 2 all goals. Again, the Sea-Robbers robbed themselves of 2 points due to lack of concentration, and pocketed 1 point only. Looking at just these 3 games, the out of a possible 9 points, Pirates walked away with just 3 points because of poor concentration. They lost a potential 6 points, which is equivalent or the same as winning 1 game and loosing 2 games.
Looking at the line-up on the day, there were a couple of changes; some forced because of injuries, some because of a dip in form, and one because of suspension. Going through the team sheet, it was a clear 4-4-2 this time around.
In goals, Jackson Mabokgwane made way for Brighton Mhlongo, who seemed to have come back with a stomach bug after national duty, which is why he was missing in the past few games. He conceded 2 goals in this game; there was nothing he could have done to save the first goal which was a penalty from Thanduyise Khuboni. The second one was a long range shot from Lindo Mbatha. On this goal, I would say he should have communicated better with his defense to push up and press the ball because there were 5 green Buccaneers surrounding the ball, but nobody pressed the ball. And yes, it is not the editors mistake, I said green shirts. Pirates were unveiling the 80th anniversary special kit on the day, the green jersey, with Mhlongo in all black at goals.
In defense, there were 3 changes with Justice Chabalala, the only one surviving from the last game. Happy Jele led the team as captain in the place of Edwin Gyimah and he had the captains arm belt because Ace was out with an injury. Patrick Phungwayo came in for the suspended Thabo Matlaba, and Ntsikelelo Nyauza started ahead of Thembela Sikhakhane because he is currently off-form. The defense is a worrying department for the Buccaneers because of all the silly goals they are conceding. There was really no danger from the throw-in when Chabalala fouled Sitayitayi. He dived-in trying to play first man on the ball, but Sitayitayi was smart and Chabalala fouled him. He was caught marking on the wrong side; his positioning was wrong and he gave away a penalty. Chabalala, having scored his first goal in the last encounter vs Baroka FC, came into the game full of confidence, and I am sure he would want to quickly forget this past game. I thought Phungwayo was solid, Nyauza was okay until the match fitness caught up with him in the 70th minute, and Sikhakhane came on for him. With Jele in the game, it meant the buccaneers started the ball from the back because he is comfortable on the ball. However, I feel he needs to organize better as a leader at the back because they marked badly during standard situations, and they were lucky not to concede on a couple of occasions.
In midfield, Oupa Manyisa was out injured, so it gave the versital Gladwin Shitolo an opportunity to partner Issa Sarr in central midfield. I thought Shitolo played well, he circulated the ball at a good pace, he broke opposition attacks. The Buccaneers played with 2 defensive midfielders which gave the wingers in Luvuyo Memela and Thabo Rakhale more freedom because they had cover at all times. My man of the match and the best player on the pitch, Memela, had an assist inside the first minute when he provided an inch perfect cross for Tendai Ndoro to score. Rakhale played in patches; he needs to be more consistent. One minute he is going past a player and making good combination passes, then disappears for 5 to 10 minutes. Riyaad Nooriden came on for him and he brought a lot of pace and skill. He got into the box more, but did not finish the 2 good chances he got. For me, Nooriden came on and played well besides missing the 2 chance, and I would start him in the next game if I was Coach Palacious.
King of Goals, Tendai Ndoro, grabbed a brace on the day taking his tally to 11 goals in the league, and 12 in all competitions. He now has more goals than than the overall for Bloemfontein Celtic, Platinum Stars, Marisburg United and Free State Stars, who trail behind with less than 11 goals each. He opened his account on the day in the opening minute with a jack knife header, putting it out of reach for Kapini in the opposition goal. He made it 2 in the second half, after winning a penalty which saw him grab a brace. He was partnered with Thabiso Kutumela upfront, who I thought played well on the day and also assisted when the team was defending . Kutumela was involved in the first goal; he laid the ball for Memela to cross for Ndoro’s goal. He looked hungry on the pitch, made intelligent runs. His positioning can improve if he continues to work on it, and learns to read where the second ball is gonna fall. With Ndoro, I feel he can score even more goals if he can be more tactically disciplined. He tends to drift too wide and sometimes drops too deep. If he is just a fraction patient and stays in the box, he will easily hit the 20 goal mark.
Overall, not the greatest performance – but coach Palacious needs to work on the concentration of his team especially in defense. The team needs to be able to defend their lead, and convert these silly draws into wins if the buccaneers are to seriously contest for league honours.