The Buccaneers came into the game full of confidence after one of their better performances of the season in the cup win against Free State Stars away from home at the weekend. One would understand the coach’s thinking by not interfering with a winning team, as he went with an unchanged side.
Looking at the formation on the evening, it was a 4-2-3-1, and at times it was 4-4-1-1.
In goals Siyabonga Mphontshane continued after a good performance over the weekend. Talk about being given a chance and grabbing it with both hands. He made two great saves in the first half and he looked composed, except for lapse of concentration in the last action of the first half, where he nearly fluffed a long range shot which should have been a routine save from him. At the end of the game Mphontshane would be happy with a clean sheet, but I feel that his handling and concentration can improve, as he was not catching the ball cleanly. That is something to work on before the next game, but good performance nonetheless.
In defence, it was the same back four from last weekend’s cup game, with Thabo Matlaba at and Patrick Phungwayo operating as fullbacks, and Happy Jele and Ayanda Gcaba at center back. The side looked solid, and one of the reasons behind that were the two screening defensive midfielders in front of the back four.
Maritzburg United’s Andrea Fileccia kept “The Ghosts” busy, but they held their lines well, although Phungwayo was caught flat at times. This means he could not see both the man and the ball, which is not the right way to defend, but he improved his positional play especially in the second half.
Jele was solid and made a couple of match saving tackles in the game. Gcaba also looked good and one could see him communicating better with the rest of his defenders on the night.
In midfield, also the personnel from the cup game, kept their places. Thembinkosi Lorch on the right, Mpho Makola on the left, Captain Oupa Manyisa just behind the main striker, Abbubaker Mobara and Issa Sarr were the shield for the back four.
The combo of Mobara and Sarr gave the offensive players a lot of freedom going forward and security.
Manyisa was influential, circulating the ball, and was the heartbeat of the offensive play from the buccaneers.
Makola played the half wing very well, knowing when to hug the line and when to cut in to open the space for Phungwayo to overlap.
Manyisa provided an assist from a well floated corner which Gcaba aggressively and bravely attacked to make it 1-0 to the buccaneers with a well taken header.
Lorch, who has fitted well into the Pirates way of playing, balanced his offensive and defensive play so well, which is one of the reasons he is the first choice right winger at the club.
He played a well waited pass to set up a one-on-one situation with the keeper for Tendai Ndoro, but the prolific striker failed to punish the visiting side. He had a good game overall, however.
In the 59th minute of the game Maritzburg defender Brian Onyango got a second yellow card and he had to walk for an early shower.
After the red card, coach Kjell Jonevret made a tactical change sacrificing a yellow carded Mobara and brought in Dove Wome to be more offensive and only play with one defensive midfielder for the remainder of the game.
Wome’s goal was from a combination play with Ndoro, but I give credit to Wome, who has a football brain. After receiving the ball from Makola, he played one touch to Ndoro who returned the favour with another touch, and Wome passed the net, needing only a single touch to make it 2-0 for the buccaneers.
In the 80th minute, Makola made way for Luvuyo Memela, and in the 84th minute Delon Mekoa got a second yellow and he also had to walk, so Maritzburg finished the game with 9 men.
Upfront, Ndoro continued as the point of reference or the main striker. I need to give him credit, he really impressed me in this game with his hold up play, and he played well with his back to goal.
His movement off the ball is one of his strengths, and he did that so well to create opportunities for himself barring the two first chances he fluffed from Lorch’s service.
Ndoro might have not scored in this game, but he played very well. He contributed an assist for Wome’s goal with his back to goal via a lovely one touch to set him up.
AmaBakaniya ajabulile! An overall a good performance by the boys on the night, the defense looked solid; you can see leadership from Jele and Gcaba.
There was a lot of commitment shown in the last 2 games. In midfield, Ace Manyisa is back and he is changing the gears for the buccaneers in midfield, he looks rejuvenated and he is enjoying himself again. The coach must be happy and he seems to be starting to understand the players better. The Sea Robbers are back and they have turned the corner.