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Siyabonga Mpontshane cannot be blamed for Orlando Pirates' defeat, after Ittihad score a freak goal

FILE - Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

FILE - Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Feb 21, 2022

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Cape Town — Orlando Pirates will have a week to recover from their defeat in Benghazi, Libya, on Sunday night, when Al Ittihad ran out 3-2 winners in a keenly contested CAF Confederation Group B match.

Despite defeat Pirates still top the Group B standings with Al-Ittihad, who played their first match of the campaign on Sunday, in second place. In the other group B game over the weekend.

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In the other Group B over the weekend JS Saoura defeated Royal Leopards 2-0 after being awarded a penalty in each half. It was Leopards' first match of the campaign and they qualified after upsetting JS Kabylie, the crack Algerian side which had won the CAF Champions League three times.

ALSO READ: Libyans Al-Ittihad beat Orlando Pirates in five-goal CAF Confed Cup thriller

Pirates' Sunday defeat was not well received in South Africa. Irate fans have the club a right royal pasting and goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane came in for harsh criticism which was unjustified. There is no basis for blaming him for Ittihad's first two goals because they were well taken.

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Ittihad's third goal was a bizarre freak moment in the game. Midfielder Omar Al Khouja ran on to a bouncing ball and out of the blue, he hoofed the upfield on the volley. It was a perfectly timed fluke shot as it took Mpontshane by surprise at a time when he was positioned on the edge of his penalty.

Goalkeepers hardly ever remained glued to the goal line when play is around the halfway line and that was the case on Sunday.

ALSO READ: Orlando Pirates braced for a red-letter day when taking on Libya’s blue-eyed boys Al-Ittihad

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The most pleasing aspect of Sunday's play was the form of Pietermaritzburg-born right back Bandile Shandu who seems to be thriving now that he has reunited with his former Maritzburg United coach Fadly Davids at Pirates. In a rare feat for a fullback, he scored both his side's goals and at this rate, he's going to be Pirates' best signing this season.

It is not clear if Shandu has been given the licence to roam, but he found himself in a typical No 10 position when he scored his first goal. For his second goal, he was right up in the forward line.

His primary task was to shut out Ittihad's threat out wide and he was effective. What was most impressive was his ability to join the team's attacks upfield without exposing the side's defence.

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ALSO READ: Pirates send Algeria's JS Saoura packing with 2-0 defeat In Confed Cup opener

Pirates' technical staff have finally backed down on the issue of ignoring Gabadinho Mhango, after an impressive AFCON performance in Cameroon, he was cold-shouldered by Davids and the other co-coach Mandla Ncikazi, both of whom are acting in an interim capacity.

This time Mhango was at least included in the travelling squad, and he was brought on just past the hour mark. When he joined the fray, he worked his way past the opposition midfield and sparked off attacks. However, there was no one alongside him to help break down the home side's defence.

After Sunday's performance may do well to build their team around Mhango and Shandu as well as redefine the role of striker Kwame Peprah who can be hugely effective if he is allowed to express his talents.

@Herman_Gibbs

IOL Sport

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