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Football gods favour Pirates but supporters bay for scalps of final-bound coaches

FILE - Orlando Pirates co-coaches Mandla Ncikazi and Fadlu Davids. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

FILE - Orlando Pirates co-coaches Mandla Ncikazi and Fadlu Davids. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Published May 16, 2022

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Cape Town — The football gods showed they favoured Orlando Pirates after Gambian referee Bakary Gassama overturned his decision to award Libyan club Al Ahli Tripoli a penalty in Sunday's CAF Confederation Cup semi-final second leg match at Orlando Stadium.

The 5,000 strong crowd, mostly Pirates supporters, who had braved Sunday evening's foul rainy weather, were stunned into silence when Gassama pointed to the 'spot' after seeing a handball infringement in the Pirates penalty area by central defender Happy Jele.

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When consulting the pitch-side VAR monitor, the video footage showed the ball ricocheted sharply off Jele's boot and onto his hand. It was not a hand-to-ball sequence, and Gassama ruled 'no penalty' much to the disgust of the protesting Libyan visitors.

ALSO READ: Orlando Pirates could have been better but the bigger picture is more important, says Mandla Ncikazi

Just two days earlier, Gassama was in the news after he awarded a controversial penalty in the recent Cameroon-Algeria clash. Luigi Collina, president of the FIFA Referees Committee, subsequently said. "There was no mistake involving referee Bakary Gassama. He is one of the best referees in the world."

The let-off raised a huge cheer in the Orlando Stadium from the “Happy People” as the Pirates' throng are known. During the halftime break, they celebrated their good fortune and were in full cry as one of South Africa's hottest rappers 'Big Zulu' belted out his famous 'Imali Eningi' number.

Around the hour mark, the “Happy People” sensing a threat from the visiting Libyans, started making gestures to the Pirates' interim co-coaches Fadlu Davids and Mandla Ncikazi to make a change and bring on substitute Vincent Pule. Strangely Pule has had limited playing time of late after kicking his heels on the sidelines following an injury a few months ago.

ALSO READ: First leg triumph sees Orlando Pirates through to CAF Confederation Cup final

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Davids and Ncikazi responded later, and the 'Happy People' raised the roof as Pule ran out.

Ten minutes later, Tripoli substitute unleashed a ripsnorter which took a wicked deflection before it bulged the Pirates' nets. By this time, with about 11 minutes playing time left, the 1-0 scoreline could have been 3 or 4-0, had it not been for Ghanaian goalkeeper Richard Ofori. He made some six or seven classic saves to ensure that Pirates conceded the lone goal without suffering disaster and emerge semi-final 2-1 aggregate victors after a first-leg 2-0 win in Libya.

It would mark the fourth time Pirates reach a final in CAF competitions. In 1995 Pirates won the Champions League and were runners up in 2013 (Champions League) and 2015 (Confederation Cup). Never has a SA team played in four CAF club finals.

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This prompted rousing scenes of delight all around Orlando Stadium after the final whistle, and there was not a hint that the “Happy People” were indeed not happy. However, for some hours after the match, hordes of Pirates fans flooded social media with calls for the sacking of Davids and Ncikazi.

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Although the defeat did not prevent Pirates from reaching the final, the poor performance by Pirates on the night triggered the call for the sacking of the coaches. If the fans had their way Davids and Ncikazi will not be on the plane to Nigeria for Friday's final against RS Berkane of Morocco.

In a nutshell, the fans said the coaches were not good enough to coach a team like Pirates. Many felt the coaches were out of their depth.

With the way the gods have been smiling on Pirates in this Confederation Cup campaign, the two under-fire coaches may well have the last laugh by the time the final runs its course in Nigeria on Friday night.

@Herman_Gibbs

IOL Sport

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