JOHANNESBURG – The wounded lion that the Buccaneers were looking to rub salt on their wound flexed their muscle and let out a mighty roar before devouring Pirates 3-1 in an Absa Premiership clash on Wednesday night.
The Buccaneers went toe-to-toe with a limping Mamelodi Sundowns in this heavyweight duel.
The Brazilians made them pay for that, flooring them twice in quick succession early in the first half through the venomous boot of captain Hlompho Kekana.
Anthony Laffor sealed the deal with a thunderous strike in optional time.
Kekana was fortunate in how he gave the Brazilians the lead 58 seconds into the match.
Abbubaker Mobara’s lazy clearance ricocheted from the boot of Kekana past goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands, who was yet to settle.
Sandilands’ former teammates ensured that he doesn’t settle.
Kekana produced a masterpiece to complete his brace, scoring from his own half to completely kill Sandilands’ confidence as he found the Bafana Bafana goalkeeper stranded.
His teammates were quick to console him, against a team that thrashed Pirates 6-0 in the last campaign on the day, a year ago, SuperSport United smashed them 6-1.
Only Thabo Matlaba was the survivor in the starting XI of the Pirates’ side that was humbled by Matsatsantsa a Pitori last year – sending them on a downward spiral that started with Muhsin Ertugral resigning on TV and ended with the club registering their worst finish in the PSL-era.
With all that baggage, this much was more than about the three points for the hosts. It was about exorcising their demons of the past and building confidence going forward.
Marc van Heerden gave the Buccaneers some belief and made this match a contest once again with his brilliant free-kick that left Denis Onyango flat-footed.
The Ugandan hadn’t done much before he had to pick the ball from the back of the net on the day he was announced on the longlist for Caf’s Footballer of the Year and Caf’s Footballer of the Year – Based in Africa awards along with his teammate Percy Tau.
Issa Sarr kept an eye on the energetic Tau in a tactical chess match between Pirates’ coach Milutin Sredojevic and his Sundowns’ counterpart Pitso Mosimane.
Sredojevic deployed Sarr at right back at the start of the match, but pushed him into midfield in the second half to stop Sundowns bullying their way with ease there, giving Kekana free reign to go as forward as he desired with Tiyani Mabunda and Oupa Manyisa protecting him.
The Buccaneers looked better after stabilising their midfield. The positive for the Buccaneers is that they didn’t drop their heads after going down against a team that came into this match at the back of three successive defeats, a first under coach Mosimane.
Pirates took the fight to the African champions, pinning them back in the last 20 minutes in search of an equaliser.
Thabo Qalinge almost found that equaliser after weaving his way inside the Brazilians’ defence with a good run, turned and looked to curl the ball past Onyango but scoffed it over the bar.
This win, especially against a team like Pirates, will give the Tshwane side a lot of confidence in their bid to shake their slump and move up the standings.
The defeat for Pirates will serve as a reminder that they are still a work in progress.
The Soweto side has struggled against the teams that finished in the top four last season.