Granted, it is early days still but the sight of Orlando Pirates languishing on the bottom rung of the Absa Premiership table is not a pretty one.
What makes the Buccaneers’ occupation of the 13th position in the 16-team league all the more unsightly is their cup form – Pirates having reached the MTN8 final courtesy of consummate wins over both SuperSport United and Bidvest Wits.
Yet, if the goals have been easy to come by in the knockout competition – they scored a massive seven in three games to setting up a Soweto derby with Kaizer Chiefs – things have been pretty tough to come by in the league. Their three matches have yielded just four goals while they have leaked in five in two draws and a defeat – certainly not the kind of return championship-winning foundations are built on.
But if there’s solid ground Valdimir Vermezovic can look to for inspiration, it is his side’s MTN8 form that has seen Pirates win matches in spite of being on the back foot. The 5-1 aggregate semi-final victory over Wits was a classic case of how to weather the storm and win matches when defeat looked the most likely outcome. In the first leg at Bidvest Stadium, Pirates scored two runaway goals to triumph 2-0 as Wits put them under the kosh for most of the 90 minutes.
At Orlando Stadium last weekend, they could so easily have been 2-0 down by the break but they incredibly went ahead early in the second half through a Kermit Erasmus strike created via a route-one counter-attack before going on to win 3-1.
This ploy of soaking up the pressure and pouncing on the break may have worked against the Clever Boys, but will it suffice against a Mamelodi Sundowns outfit that finally got off the mark in the league?
Probably not, especially with the Sundowns line-up teeming with prolific finishers who are unlikely to waste chances as much as Wits did. The two teams meet in the pick of tonight’s league matches at Loftus Versfeld.
Bucs defender Thabo Matlaba, however, believes it will all change this evening: “It has been a bit frustrating not being able to win in the league but doing so well in the cup. But cup and league football are not the same and we’re so used to getting to cup finals that winning matches here is almost second nature.”
They better get used to winning in the league if they are to launch a serious challenge.
After all, they will have continental assignments to contend with, a factor that has generally contributed to seeing many a South African team’s local performances negatively affected.
“We know what the problem is and we’ve been working on fixing it. All we need to do is take our cup mentality of going for a kill in the league as well.
“We must just score goals.”
The Ghost will be hoping to see finishing of the quality that was produced by Kermit Erasmus and Lehlohonolo Majoro at the weekend.
Other matches tonight
Kick off all 7:30pm