As the only surviving member of the Orlando Pirates squad that qualified for the CAF Champions League semifinal in 2006, captain Lucky Lekgwathi has warned teammates that wasting chances, as they have done recently, will only lead to misery.
Seven years ago, coached by Milutin Sredojevic, the Buccaneers ran rings around the CS Sfaxien defence in the first leg semi at home, but had nothing to show for it as the game finished goalless. They bowed out to a solitary goal in the second leg in Tunisia.
As they head into this weekend’s first leg semi-final clash against two-time champions and last year’s finalists Esperance at Orlando Stadium, Lekgwathi has called for composure in front of goal.
“I was part of the team that last qualified for the semi-final and I’ve been sharing my experiences of that year with my teammates. We needed to win at home that year, but we wasted so many chances, even though we dominated. And then when we played away from home, they beat us 1-0. Just imagine losing 1-0 after dominating the first leg like we did. It was not a good feeling to lose like that,” said the 36 year old, who has been a stalwart in the Buccaneers’ quest for African glory.
“We need to fight and get goals this weekend against Esperance, so that when we go away from home it won’t be as difficult. Earlier in the competition we beat TP Mazembe 3-1 at home and they beat us 1-0 when we played them in their backyard, but we went through because we had taken our chances at home. That’s what we need to do this weekend, so that we can be safe and put one foot in the final.”
Pirates’ recent form will be a cause for concern though. They did well to get draws against Egyptian giants Al Ahly and Kaizer Chiefs last week, but a defeat in the MTN8 final against Platinum Stars at the weekend may have demoralised the players who have had a hectic schedule lately. Lekgwathi expects a response from the players who he believes are still thinking about the defeat to Dikwena.
“Losing the final was not good. It would have been a big morale boost for the Esperance game had we won the MTN8. Some of the players are still thinking about that defeat, but it’s up to us, the senior guys and the technical team to help the players forget about that game and build their confidence. We need to bounce back because the Champions League is a very big competition and we want to make sure we get to the final and win it.
“We’ve worked so hard to get here and we don’t want it to end now,” he said.
Lekgwathi missed the MTN8 semi-final against Chiefs last week and the final against Dikwena, but could make a return to the starting line-up on Saturday. He has often been rested for local matches, but has been a regular feature in the Champions League, where his experience is key.
“I’ve played all the games and I’ve made a big contribution. I’m proud of myself and I’m proud of what the team has done. We will see who the coaches choose to play,” he added. - The Star