Johannesburg – A pleasant evening stroll in Orlando was probably just what Pirates needed on Wednesday, after a long-haul flight for many of their squad across the continent.
Luckily for the Buccaneers, Golden Arrows provided a welcoming doormat for them to stretch their legs on, as Roger de Sa’s men waltzed into the semi-finals of the Telkom Knockout.
The CAF Champions League finalists totally outclassed Abafana Bes’thende in a chastening first game in charge for Mark Harrison, Lennox Bacela notching up a first hat-trick in a Pirates shirt.
The 30-year-old now has five goals from two rounds of this competition, and ten goals in 15 games for Pirates this season, an impressive tally.
Pirates will play at SuperSport United in the semi-finals, and this was another massive confidence booster to go into Saturday’s Absa Premiership Soweto derby, to go with the fantastic triumph of Tunis last weekend.
De Sa resisted any temptation to make wholesale changes against Arrows, in the wake of Pirates’ continental heroics, and ahead of the derby. Only Sifiso Myeni and Tlou Segolela were rested, Kermit Erasmus and Khethowakhe Maskuku coming into the starting line-up. Both were excellent, Erasmus netting his first goal for the club.
Harrison made five changes to Manqoba Mngqithi’s side that had beaten Wits 3-2 in the last 16.
Bongani Ntuli was unavailable through suspension, but Thanduyise Khuboni returned in the centre of midfield. Harrison, meanwhile, chose goalkeeper Siya Mngoma over Nkosingiphile Gumede, former Pirate Rudolf Bester came in for the injured Kgotso Polelo, and Nkanyiso Mlotshwa was preferred to Emmanuel Mndunge.
Pirates showed absolutely no sign of lethargy from their toils in Tunis with Erasmus and Masuku adding a strong dose of fresh legs.
The former had an early shot saved by Mngoma, before Masuku got down the right and supplied a brilliant cross, Bacela planting a firm header past the Arrows ‘keeper. Bacela then side-footed another Masuku delivery just wide, as Pirates ran at will at a porous, statuesque Arrows defence.
Harrison’s side briefly threatened as Bester stormed forward on the break, but Pirates’ defence recovered their composure, and the Buccaneers doubled their lead in the 34th minute.
A Masuku free-kick found Bacela unmarked at the back post, and he headed the ball back for Erasmus, who thumped a clinical left-footed shot past Mngoma.
Senzo Meyiwa soon had to be alert to push away Philani Shange’s sharp delivery, but two minutes before half-time, the game was already over. Oupa Manyisa’s pass released Bacela, who beat Mngoma at his near post.
The former Bloemfontein Celtic and Santos striker completed his hat- trick in the 57th minute, easily beating Mngoma after a neat pass from Erasmus.
Bacela was replaced by Collins Mbesuma, giving some much needed game time to the Zambian striker, and he almost created another goal for Erasmus, the latter’s shot well stopped by Mngoma.
De Sa then gave youngster Aubrey Ngoma a chance, and his cross was smashed by Erasmus just off target. And the same two combined again in stoppage time, with the same result. Not that it mattered. Pirates are flying.
November 2: Kaizer Chiefs v Platinum Stars
November 20/21/22/23/24: SuperSport United v Pirates