JOHANNESBURG – It was quite fitting that Benni McCarthy was somehow involved in Orlando Pirates’ 1-0 win over Cape Town City on Tuesday night that should inspire this Pirates generation to be like the side McCarthy left as South African champions four years ago.
McCarthy and company fought until the end, no matter how high the odds stacked against them were in the Sea Robbers’ march to successive domestic trebles.
That spirit wasn’t there in the years after that, leading to their miserable campaign last season.
This side is still far from McCarthy’s all-conquering Pirates, but on Tuesday night, they fought until the end to register their biggest win so far.
Thabo Qalinge inspired the Buccaneers to a win with an 82nd-minute goal that should give Pirates confidence going into their clash with reigning league champions Bidvest Wits on Saturday.
But the Buccaneers laboured to get a win in a match in which they played second fiddle to the Citizens for the better part.
An anguish-filled scream from coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic, which bounced off the orange chairs and reverberated inside this calabash, described how it’s like to watch this Pirates side better than any words would.
They’re still far from a finished product, much to the frustration of those associated with them. But at least they don’t wilt under pressure like they did last season.
Musa Nyatama had a nightmare of a game, not only missing a glorious chance, but also struggling to control the midfield.
He gave away the ball cheaply from the pressure Mpho Matsi and Roland Putsche put on him. The Citizens pair bossed the midfield through Putsche’s high work-rate and Matsi’s good passing abilities.
While Nyatama struggled, Mpho Makola was missing in action, leaving his midfield partner isolated. The Buccaneers were disjointed in their attack, lacking any creative spark as they relied on luck more than an organised structure.
The Capetonians played like the home team. They were more confident and easily controlled the game.
The only thing that worried them was the sight of Putsche getting a knock. The Austrian midfielder is an important cog in the club’s midfield. They missed him against Kaizer Chiefs after he picked up an injury in the MTN8 semi-final clash with Bidvest Wits at Milpark.
Putsche’s injury problems continued as he didn’t return from the second half, with Letsie Koapeng taking his place.
Sredojevic had said that what will be key in getting a positive result in this match would be finding the right balance between humility and arrogance.
His side started with no arrogance at all, and were too respectful towards the visitors, who controlled the match without breaking a sweat.
This match was the biggest test for the Buccaneers’ defence so far, and they managed to come out with a pass mark.
“Micho” has been using former fullbacks Ntsikelelo Nyauza and Happy Jele as centre-backs, while Innocent Maela and Mthokozisi Dube operate as fullbacks.
Maela and Dube have brought a lot of energy in a defence that conceded 40 goals in the league last season.
But they are still not as watertight as Sredojevic would want them to be, despite going into this match with three clean sheets from their first four games.
A lot of that has been down to Wayne Sandilands, who has proved to be an inspired buy. The former Mamelodi Sundowns’ goalkeeper controls the box with authority, something the Buccaneers lacked in their disastrous campaign.
Sandilands helped the Buccaneers keep another clean sheet as they shake off last season’s disappointment bit by bit.
Absa Premiership Results
Orlando Pirates 1-0 Cape Town City
SuperSport United 1-1 Chippa United
Polokwane City 2-3 Free State Stars