Orlando Pirates let the country down as they lose Champions League qualifier in Botswana

Orlando Pirates head coach Jose Riveiro

FILE - Orlando Pirates head coach Jose Riveiro. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane/AFrican News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 17, 2023

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Orlando Pirates began their Caf Champions League preliminary qualifiers’ second round on a sour note after losing 1-0 away to Jwaneng Galaxy on Sunday afternoon.

So, having lost at the Botswana National Stadium, Pirates will have to beat Galaxy in the second leg in Orlando on September 29 to qualify for the group stage of the elite African competition.

Failure to do that would see Galaxy knock out Pirates from the same phase of the competition for the second time in 13 years, having initially achieved that feat in 2010.

Pirates, though, cannot sulk and moan around as they must quickly get back to the drawing back and prepare for a tough week that lies ahead.

Pirates will face Mamelodi Sundowns in the DStv Premiership at home on Wednesday before hosting Stellenbosch in the second leg of the MTN8 semi-final on Sunday. They won 2-1 in the first leg.

Having made light work of Islanders Djabal Club d’Iconi in the preliminary first round, Pirates were tipped to meet their biggest challenge yet in Galaxy.

And boy, the Batswana stuck to the script as they scored the only goal of the match in the 21st minute through Daniel Msendami to take the win and a huge advantage into the second leg.

Galaxy could have won by a greater margin hadn’t Benson Mangolo’s goal early in the second been ruled offside in a dubious decision by the referees.

And perhaps, one would argue Pirates will return from Botswana with their tails between their legs at their own peril, having coach Jose Riveiro fielded somewhat a makeshift team.

Riveiro gave rare starts to Richard Ofori, Lesedi Kapinga, who was making his debut for the club and Souaibou Marou who was making first appearance of the season.

So, amid being as the underdogs and yet to get their domestic top-flight underway, Galaxy’s coach Morena Ramoreboli must have been licking his lips when he saw Pirates’ line-up.

After all, Ramoreboli doesn’t only know Pirates by virtue of being a South African, but the likes of Kabelo Dlamini, who was in the starting line-up, are his former players.

And so, such was the high-flying the hosts had that Thabang Sesinyi tested the waters as early as the second minute, before Phillip Ndlondlo replied with a shot that was saved by Ryan Brown.

After that electrifying start, the game started to open, with both teams taking a go at each other. But it was the host that broke the deadlock through Msendami.

Behind and in search of an equaliser – that never came – Marou got Pirates’ best chances in the first half, but he fired wide at most, while Galaxy’s defence also stood their ground.

The second half needed Pirates to think out of the box and bring on players that would unlock the hosts’ defence - Bienvenu Eva Nga and Bandile Shandu replaced Marou and Monyane.

Those two substitutions didn’t yield wanted results, instead Galaxy nearly doubled their tally as Mangolo scored only to be waved for an offside.

Galants’ dejection offered Pirates ample time to search for an equaliser and possibly the lead as Riveiro also threw into the fray Fortune Makaringe.

But the goods never came for the Sea Robbers who’ll now have to turn their focus to domestic football on Wednesday against Sundowns and Sunday against Stellenbosch.

@Mihlalibaleka

IOL Sport