JOHANNESBURG - In his forthright manner of speaking, Mamelodi Sundowns' coach Pitso Mosimane declared that Orlando Pirates are back – going as far as saying that they can win the Telkom Knockout.
The Buccaneers pushed the Brazilians in their heavyweight duel on Wednesday night at Orlando Stadium but the Chloorkop-based team was too strong for Pirates, beating them 3-1 to end their three-match losing streak. Mosimane praised Pirates for playing football and not parking the bus like many teams that face Sundowns do.
“I don’t think that there will be a lot of defences that can stop Pirates the way they're playing,” Mosimane said. “But the difficult thing is that people are sitting back. So those runs and movements Pirates make, you don’t see because people are sitting back.
"Our football is totally different. I don’t know what is happening with South African football. It’s 1-0, 1-1. All the games are from the break. But this is a Champions League team. I think that they are back. I believe that they can win the Telkom Knockout. They need a break, a reliever. If people are sitting back, they must be very careful.”
Sundowns’ clash with the Buccaneers was a tactical battle with both teams tinkering with how they play. It was also an emotional affair with Pirates’ assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena and goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands coming up against Sundowns for the first time since their departure while Oupa Manyisa also made his first trip to Orlando Stadium as part of the away team. His every touch was met with “Ace” from Sundowns’ fans and muffled boos from the Ghost.
“Rhulani had our book,” Mosimane said. “He knows everything. You could see the way they were playing and how they did things that they knew us. We are usually dominant. But we weren’t dominant in this game. He is clever. He knows everything. He was with me, I took him from the Under-19s and the book is there. He is an intelligent boy, so he eats the book quickly and he puts it the way it is. We were frustrated. But we also had a few pages from our players who came this way."
Mosimane continued, “Oupa (Manyisa) also gave us a small book, a few pages from the Pirates’ book. We also know our goalkeeper remember? We all knew each other’s secret. You might say that the first goal is luck because it deflected and went in but you have to press the goalkeeper. You have to give him stress all the time. KK (Hlompho Kekana) trained with Wayne all the time. We knew that he moves off the line. It was planned. You know that he is also accurate with his kicks.”
Sundowns will be on a lengthy recess due to this weekend being for the Telkom Knockout quarterfinals followed by the international break. Mosimane said he will go to South America to look for talent in a bid to inject fresh blood in the team that has played nonstop for almost three years. The Buccaneers have no such luxury, they host Polokwane City on Saturday night at Orlando Stadium in the Telkom Knockout last eight. The club will look to continue their rise from last season’s disastrous campaign.
“We are a work in progress,” Pirates’ coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic said. “There’s no logical development regarding that. Sometimes you think that you have reached there and the next moment football returns you back and then you continue.
"The important thing is that players are really trying their best, they are working really hard and we have certain improvements in the way we play, in our build-up and the way we enter the box. Those are the areas that we are satisfied with.
"We aren’t satisfied by the way we conceded against Sundowns and not converting our chances. This is where we need to improve. There are glimpses but we are still very far from being where we want to be and how we want to look and play.”