Orlando Pirates striker Thembinkosi Lorch beats Lehlohonolo Phali of Polokwane City to score one of his two goals on Saturday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – A sombre atmosphere engulfed Orlando Stadium on Saturday afternoon as Orlando Pirates were confirmed as the Premiership runners-up on the last day of the season.

Pirates ended their campaign on a high note as they hammered Polokwane City 3-0.

The Buccaneers came into this encounter knowing that their fate was out of their hands as the ruling football team in the elite league, Mamelodi Sundowns, had occupied the summit of the log as the league went to the wire.

Micho Sredojovic’s troops had handed their top spot to Sundowns following a 2-2 draw with Cape Town City in the penultimate round, while the latter was busy with continental duty.

And coming to this encounter, the permutations were simple for the Bucs to win the championship: Get a win here today and bank on the Brazilians to drop points away to relegation-threatened Free State Stars in Goble Park.

With that slim chance in sight, Pirates were not leaving any stone unturned – taking a healthy 3-0 lead into the interval as they wanted to make sure they were hot on the Brazilians’ heels, who had a taken a precarious lead going to their interval in Bethlehem.

That slender lead would, however, crown the Brazilians as the champions as they bagged 59 points, while Pirates could only amass 57.

Pirates will now pin their hopes on collecting some silverware at the annual PSL awards on May 18.

Thembinkosi Lorch, who’s arguably in the running for the coveted Footballer of the Season award, did enough to justify why he would deserve to be among the top three nominees.

Early in the first half, Lorch got on to the end of a defence-splitting pass from Augustine Mulenga, before unleashing a grass-cutter below Lehlohonolo Phali.

Soon after, Vincent Pule signalled what’s been a dream first season with the Sea Robbers with a thunderous long-range effort that sailed into the top corner. Lorch ensured that his team did themselves justice by scoring the all important goals as he netted his team’s third just before halftime.

That scintillating half, which had the Pirates’ discerning supporters screaming at the top of their voices, was succeeded by a dull last stanza on and off the pitch as everyone had learnt about Sundowns’ win in the Free State.

But Pirates can look back at the league season with a slight grin on their faces – as they played their part.

The only difference between now and last season, where Pirates also finished as Premiership runners-up, was that they were still a team under construction following the horrendous 2016/2017 season that saw them enduring their worst finish in the standings (11th).

But this season, with Sredojevic and assistant Rhulani Mokwena in their second stint with the club, there was no room for excuses – the squad bolstering was done, and a few more football brains were added on the technical team.

And with that new look, the Bucs dragged the league race to the wire, but it was a bit too little, too late.


IOL Sport