JOHANNESBURG – Luvuyo Memela believes that Orlando Pirates’ 2-2 draw with FC Platinum at Orlando Stadium on Friday last week was a blessing in disguise for their CAF Champions League ambitions.
If the Buccaneers don’t get a favourable result in Conakry tomorrow against Horoya, they’ll look back and say that their dreams of conquering the continent were shattered by the draw with the Zimbabwean side in their own backyard.
But Memela is a 'glass half-full' kind of guy. If Pirates had beaten Platinum, they would need only a point in Guinea. Now they need nothing less than three points which Memela argues is a better scenario to manage mentally.
“I was saying to the guys that it was a blessing in disguise (that we didn’t beat Platinum in Orlando),” Memela said. “Going there for a draw can mess with your mind, making you relax and hope to hit on the counter. They can get one chance, hit you with a sucker punch and then you’re now chasing the game.
It’s better that we’re going there knowing that we have to play our normal (attacking) game because defending isn’t our strength. Sitting behind the ball and all that isn’t us. Going there and wanting to win is a good thing for us.”
It’s a strong admission from Memela that “defending isn’t our strength”. The Buccaneers’ porous defence cost them against Platinum by making mistakes in the two goals the Zimbabweans scored. The attack bailed the side out of jail, like they have consistently done since last season. If it wasn’t for the Buccaneers’ strong attack, the Soweto giants’ defensive frailties would be laid bare and the club would struggle.
Memela, though, refuses to only blame the defence for the cheap goals Pirates concede.
“In the modern game, the team defends as a unit,” Memela said. “If we don’t win the ball in front, and our midfielders also don’t win it, then they will attack our defenders. The whole team needs to be sharp.
We need to defend from the front, because when we defend from the top it’s easier for us to score because we win the ball close to the goals. If we (as the attacking players) don’t defend well, we make things tough for everyone.”
The 31-year-old made his debut in the group stage of the Champions League in the clash with Platinum due to the lengthy spell he spent out nursing a knee injury. The Buccaneers took their time nursing him back to full fitness. They didn’t rush him because the club’s technical team argued that he would come in handy in the final stretch with his match-winning abilities.
But while he was in the stands, he watched helplessly as his team constantly dug themselves into holes by starting slow before waking up late into the match. It’s like Pirates only start playing when they have their backs to the wall.
“It’s not that we like chasing the game, it’s just that it’s something we have to improve on,” Memela said. “In most games, teams shoot us first and then we look to shoot back. In Guinea we don’t need that. We have to make sure that we don’t concede, especially in the first 45 minutes.
The first 45 minutes will determine the result. If we don’t concede, we can win the game in the second half or we can score first because I know that the team is capable of scoring early goals.”