The Buccaneers played their away game against Maritzburg United well rested, given that the last time they had played a game was on the 3rd of December 2016. They essentially had ten days to prepare for this game as the Telkom Cup Final was wrapping up. The break gave the Buccaneers a chance for their captain and some of the players who had knocks to recover.
It was a 5th placed Pirates vs 9th placed Maritzburg who had not won at home this season. Last season, the same game or fixture was a thriller that ended 3 all. Interestingly, this game featured caretaker coaches for both Pirates and Maritzburg… zwialingana (They were equal)!
Looking at the Pirates formation on the evening, it was a 4-4-2 at the start, Mpho Makola playing as a half winger on the right, and Tendai Ndoro was partnered with Thabiso Kutumela.
There were a couple of changes in the line-up. In goals, Brighton Mhlongo kept his place between the sticks. I believe he needs to be more aggressive when commanding his defense, organizing, and when he communicates with them because if he does not, he will keep conceding every game. He conceded the goals as the attacks from Maritzburg were not marked.
In defense, there were a couple of changes; the suspended Justice Chabalala made way for Edwin Gyimah who sat out the last game due to injury. Gyimah partnered with the vice captain Happy Jele, and in the center of defense, Phungwayo made way for Bafana Bafana international Thabo Matlaba, who was making his way back from suspension, and was also celebrating his 28th birthday on the same evening. At rightback, Ntsikelelo Nyauza kept his place after a good performance against Highlands Park. Jele had a good chance from a Makola corner, but unluckily, his header brushed the crossbar. Nyauza was caught by the quick free-kick – however, Issa Sarr was supposed to pick up Bevan Fransman who scored the first goal. When the second goal came from a corner in the 68th minute, again, Sarr was the man marking Brian Onyango who scored from a header; Sarr did not even jump. The marking and the shape at the back was just not on point.
In midfield, the unlucky Gladwin Shitolo got injured again at training, after a good performance in the last game. He made way for captain Oupa Manyisa, who came back to the line-up after missing the last game due to injury. Thabo Rakhale was completely out of the match-day squad due to being off-form, and this opened up space for Mpho Makola after he recovered from the toe injury that saw him miss the last fixture. The ever present Sarr kept his place in the defensive midfield role, so was Luvuyo Memela who kept his place on the left wing. Sarr had a good chance to score in the first half from a Ndoro cross, and should have perhaps used the jerk knife technic (heading the to the ground). Both teams kept the ball fairly well in midfield, but the final ball left a lot to be desired in the first half. There was no structure in the midfield, be it defensive or offensive for the Buccaneers, no one took charge of the midfield.
Coach Palacious made a change after conceding a goal in the 3rd minute of the second half, taking off Kutulema for Mahlatse Makudubela, and this meant Makola played further up closer to Ndoro and Makudubela played on the right. This translated in a formation change to 4-5-1. When that did not bear fruit, Palacious made a double change in the 58th minute, taking out Makola and Memela for Ayanda Nkosi and Donald Mokondelela. At this point, the Buccaneers reverted back to a 4-4-2. Mokondelela went to the wing, and Nkosi partnered Ndoro. In the second half, the Pirates midfielders were non-existent, leaving Maritzburg’s Kurt Lentjies, Deolin Mekoa and man of the match Lebogang Maboe to call the strings in midfield. That’s where the game was lost for the Sea Robbers, Oupa Manyisa as captain and one of the most experienced players in the league were really outsmarted in the midfield department and he really needs to improve his personal performance.
Upfront, King-goals Ndoro was partnered with promising young star Thabiso Kutumela. Their pace and movement troubled the Maritzburg defense led by Fransman in the first half. At times, you would find both the strikers drifting wide and too deep. They need to play more as a pair when one of them drops to find space or receive the ball; the other striker needs to remain in the box. Kutumela made good runs but when he had the ball on his feet, he seemed undecided and did not know what to do with it. Palacious had no option but to pull him off in the 50th minute after conceding in the 3rd minute of the second half. Ayanda Nkosi combined well with Manyisa, and Nkosi with his back to goals managed to use his upper body strength and physic to turn the defense of Maritzburg; and what a powerful shot to draw 1 goal back for the buccaneers- his first goal for his new club.
Overall, a bad day at the office for the Buccaneers. A night to forget! The structure was poor, there was no cohesion between the departments on the pitch. The Buccaneers were fortunate to be loosing 2-1 because they were totally outplayed, especially in the second half. This may be because the team keeps changing every week due to injuries and one can’t help but wonder if the players are well conditioned, or what could be the cause for the persistent injuries. A night to forget indeed for the Sea Robbers.