The Orlando Pirates ship is fixed on a steady course after they cruised past Golden Arrows 1-0 in the Telkom Knockout opening round at the Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu.
Following the troubles of last season Pirates continued their positive start this term with a fairly comfortable victory in Durban, thanks to a first half goal from Thabo Qalinge.
Bucs came into the clash with three changes from the goalless Soweto derby against Kaizer Chiefs last weekend. In came newcomer, Zambian attacker Justin Shonga, with goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane and winger Thembinkosi Lorch.
Shonga and Thabiso Kutumela shared the burden of leading the attack, supported by a strong work ethic that is starting to embed itself into Pirates’ play.
Unlike last season’s disastrous campaign this Sea Robbers outfit came out to plunder, united in attacking and defending.
Pulling together with Milutin Sredojevic’s expansive handstrokes serving like a conductor’s baton, they breached Arrows with multiple raids and deservedly took a 1-0 lead into the interval.
The hard graft earned them fair support as the sound of the vuvuzelas reverberated around the stadium dominated by Pirates faithful. They were treated to some flashy stuff too from winger Thabo Qalinge, and he matched it with efficiency by grabbing the opener with a clinical lob into the net after Kutumela and Shonga combined to pierce Arrows’ backline in the 35th minute.
That was the first open play goal in this edition of the tournament after Maritzburg United and Platinum Stars kicked off the cup first round the night before with a stalemate through normal and extra time. Platinum won that affair 3-1 on penalties.
It wasn’t all Pirates doing the plundering. Arrows, showing the confidence of being the league’s only undefeated side, took the game to their more illustrious opponents. With similar efficiency as Qalinge the home team might have had the lead. Strikers Lerato Lamola and Knox Mutizwa combined at the far post and collided to push wide a cross from Zolani Nkombelo who ghosted in to support Kudakwashe Mahachi, Arrows’ livewire playmaker.
Besides that breach of the Pirates ship the only other sniff of scoring in the first half fell to defender Musa Bilankulu who nodded a header wide. Issa Sarr and Mpho Makola’s marshaling in midfield ensured that goalkeeper Mabokgwane had a relatively relaxed afternoon. Senegalese international Sarr also showed a bit of nifty footwork going forward, a sign of the growing confidence in their ranks. He even earned applause for an acrobatic defensive block in midfield.
Arrows needed to step up a gear in search of the equaliser but despite the introductions of Nduduzo Sibiya and Yusuf Jappie in the second period Pirates were resolute and maintained course for a quarter-final appearance. The Soweto giants also enjoyed a perfect record against Arrows in cup meetings, having outclassed them in four previous league cup matches to go with last season’s victory in the Nedbank Cup semi-final.
Arrows gave it their all and had Pirates stretched on occasion, but Mabokgwane was alert to deny Siphelele Magubane after the midfielder burst through on a counter and arrowed in a firm drive. Several other half chances accrued to Arrows, often on the end of Jappie’s curlers, but this was Pirates’ day as they sailed to a deserved win.