at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Augusto Palacios is confident Orlando Pirates can brush off early-season issues in front of goal in time for Friday’s Absa Premiership opener against Golden Arrows.
The defending league champions were reliant on some dodgy Kaizer Chiefs defending, and a last minute Benni McCarthy strike, for the victory on penalties over Kaizer Chiefs in the Carling Black Label Cup.
And last Friday, the Buccaneers had another goal-shy evening, needing a controversial late penalty to take down Bloemfontein Celtic in the MTN8 quarter-finals.
The loss of Tokelo Rantie, who formed an excellent partnership with Benni McCarthy last season, certainly appears to have had an early effect, but the Pirates coach did not seem unduly concerned, as he faced the media at Rand Stadium on Wednesday.
“I think it is the finishing that is a problem,” said Palacios.
“But myself, I never blame the players. If we put in a clear picture, there was a shot by (Ndumiso) Mabena against Celtic, and then Daine Klate was alone and needed to be cool,” added the Pirates coach, on an excellent chance the Bucs winger spurned at the end of the first half last Friday.
“We created chances. It also happened in the second half. In training we have been trying to arrive in the box in numbers and to be cool.
“We need to correct our mistakes and get back to our goalscoring combinations.
“To win with a penalty can happen in any game. We always insist on attack.
“If we were looking for extra time, we would never have attacked.”
Mabena was the chosen partner for McCarthy against Celtic, and it remains to be seen if he is retained for the Arrows clash. The 25-year-old striker netted just three league goals last season and admitted he is keen to improve this season, though he has refused to set himself a target.
“I am just telling myself I have to convert all the chances I get inside the box.”
With the potential talent available to Pirates, Mabena admits that there is no room for complacency in the Buccaneers line-up.
“It is not easy because there is no room for any lazy player in this team. It’s all about Pirates, and not the individual,” said Mabena.
“Playing with Benni gives me confidence that I am doing something very well that the coach needs at training – so I need to take that into the game.”
One man Pirates will not be fielding for a while, it seems, is their new Zimbabwean striker, Takesure Chinyama. Palacios says it will take a while for Chinyama to adapt to the Pirates way.
“When we think he is ready he can play,” said Palacios.
“It is not easy to play the type of football that Pirates play. You need to look at the different combinations of strikers in the team. He is new to the team and we need to mould him into the combinations we have. And there is a physical aspect. When he arrived we needed the physical trainer to work him individually. We did the same with (Onyekachi) Okonkwo. Some players train individually to try to arrive at the level of other players.”
Pirates, of course, have raked in the trophies in the last couple of seasons, picking up the so-called “double-treble”.
But Palacios does not appear to feel any extra pressure from defending silverware.
“I don’t think about the Telkom or the MTN8. Any coach at Pirates, Chiefs, Sundowns and Swallows is under pressure – you always need to win.
“I must not take into consideration the past, I must take what happens now for me, and for me it is to win games.
“But with the quality of the players we have and the high spirit, I have confidence we can deliver.” – The Star