Johannesburg - Orlando Pirates are through to the playoffs of the CAF Confederation Cup qualifiers following a 1-0 aggregate win over Diables Noirs.
But they will need to be a lot more clinical in front of goal if they want to go far in the competition.
After a 0-0 draw with Diables away from home a week ago, Pirates couldn’t afford to lose or draw at home on Sunday night. And they had to rely on a solo goal from Happy Jele early in the first half to seal their spot in the next round.
A lot was expected from the Buccaneers this season, having won the MTN8 trophy last season. But their failure to defend that trophy has been the start of their problems as they can’t seem to be clinical in front of goal, while they also have a long injury list.
After scoring once in their last four matches during a winless run, Pirates needed a perfect response against Diables if they were going to keep their chances of reaching the group stages of the African competition alive.
Strangely, their coaching department left out striker Tshegofatso Mabasa who’s been chipping in with the goals this season. Terrence Dzvukamanja led the line, while they had as many as five in midfield, while they played four at the back.
After failing to pitch for his Bafana Bafana call-up against Ethiopia due to “personal reasons”, Goodman Mosele returned for the first time to the Pirates’ fold, starting in the heartbeat of their midfield alongside the reliable Thabang Monare.
But, perhaps, the player to watch was Linda Mntambo. The former Chippa United man had an outstanding game during their goalless draw with Maritzburg United in the league. And that’s why he had to try and replicate the same form.
Mntambo made his first contribution of the game by delivering an inch perfect cross to marksman Dzvukamanja. The latter did put the ball in the back of the net, but he was unfortunately ruled offside as Pirates searched for the lead.
Mntambo continued in his strides, forcing the visitors’ goalie into a fine save. But it was captain Happy Jele who produced the goods, heading home a pin-point effort after a delightful corner-kick. Pirates escaped a scare before halftime.
Siyabonga Mpontshane was involved in a collision after being his attempt in a duel. But after medical attention he was able to resume with play. The Bucs keeper may have kept a clean sheet in the first half but they needed more goals.
The Bucs’ technical team appeared to have heeded to the call, bringing on a host of striking options in the second half. Deon Hotto was the notable inclusion, having been Pirates' live wire whenever he came on as a substitute recently.
At the end, the Buccaneers held on for the win, keeping their chances of qualifying for the group stage for a second season running alive. But, of course, that will depend on them winning their two matches in the playoffs qualifiers.