JOHANNESBURG – Orlando Pirates started 2018 like a team possessed, almost turning Baroka FC coach Kgoloko Thobejane’s famous words that “football can kill you” into a reality with a 3-1 win on Saturday night.
Thobejane held on to his life, but his team wasn’t that fortunate at Orlando Stadium.
Bakgaga were killed in less than half-an-hour, which is when this match stopped being a contest.
The Buccaneers casually dug the grave of the side from Ga-Mphahlele and buried them in the hour that followed the early onslaught.
The visitors put on a pathetic fight, and they were made to pay for it by a Pirates team that had an extra bounce to their step.
The Buccaneers’ anthem, Yiyo le iBhakaniya, sung by the late Robbie Malinga – who is a member of the Ghost – resonated with the crowd more than usual in Pirates’ first match since his passing on Christmas Day.
The song that’s normally just another pre-match ritual suddenly felt like a war cry and had an emotional meaning.
The fans – the few who were there before kickoff – danced to it passionately, and that energy rubbed off on the players, who had a storming start as they outplayed and out-ran Baroka.
The dancing and singing that was there before referee Thando Ndzandzeka started the match went up a notch after Musa Nyatama gave the Buccaneers an early lead.
The Pirates central midfielder headed home a short corner that was played by Luvuyo Memela and Thabiso Kutumela, before Memela whipped an inviting cross that just needed a touch to beat Virgil Vries in the sixth minute.
Memela kept the party going by completing a brace in less than 10 minutes. The Ghost were on Cloud Nine by then, and nothing could bring them down, especially a timid Baroka side.
Baroka’s porous defence didn’t help their cause. They struggled to deal with crosses, which left Vries vulnerable.
The Buccaneers easily cut through them from all angles, and it looked like a heavy score was on the cards.
It’s an achievement that Bakgaga didn’t concede in the second half as they were shell-shocked and rattled.
The visitors managed to find a solitary goal and ensure that they return to Limpopo with something.
Mduduzi Mdantsane scored from the penalty spot on the half-hour mark after Lucky Nguzana was brought down in the Buccaneers’ box.
Even with that goal the visitors weren’t in the match, as they were yet to return from the holidays.
Baroka started the second half with a prayer, which was quite fitting as they needed divine intervention to avoid a thrashing, but it was already too late.
Pirates produced their most forceful display since Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic took over just before the start of the season.
This was the most number of goals the Buccaneers scored in a single match under the Serbian having only scored more than one goal twice this season in all competitions.
That was against Baroka’s neighbours Polokwane City in the 2-2 draws they played in the league and Telkom Knockout.
What will be key for the Buccaneers now is to ensure that they consistently play like this as that will ensure that they move away from a disappointing 2017 – which was meant to be a year of celebration with the club turning 80, but turned into a sad occasion that they would quickly like to forget.