JOHANNESBURG – Having the order of the past two weeks been “Josef Zinnbauer who?”, the Orlando Pirates' new coach had the perfect response for his detractors on his first game in charge after inspiring his team to a 3-1 victory over Black Leopards at Orlando Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Two weeks ago, the Bucs’ faithful were left bemused by the club decision to appoint Zinnbauer, who didn’t have sound credentials, as Micho Sredojevic’s successor after four-and-a-half months.
Zannbauer’s appointment follows after the team had a turbulent first half of the season for the Buccaneers, having fallen from the dizzying heights of being tipped for the championship to a team that’s been criss-crossing between top and bottom of the log standings.
Much of that disappointing outing came during the tutelage of then interim Rhulani Mokwena, who took over the reins following the abrupt resignation of Sredojevic early this season.
After landing the role, Mokwena, 34, was seen as a facilitator of redemption for South African young coaches, who’ve been overlooked by the “big clubs” due to inexperience.
But the big stage just proved to be too overwhelming for the former Mamelodi Sundowns’ assistant, bagging only 14 points in 11 matches during his time at the helm.
From thereon, enter Zinnabauer, who’s relatively an unknown in the continent and abroad. And that’s why it was important that he make a commanding introduction here today.
And the German didn’t waste time in making his mark – and giving the Bucs a Christmas present.
You see, this was a well-known Pirates team, which has been playing beautiful football all round, while they’ve been let down by their porous defence and finishing up front.
Leopards, who came into this encounter as underdogs, were the first to test the waters after Lesedi Kapinga created acres of space for himself just outside the Bucs’ box before his efforts were palmed away by Wayne Sandilands.
From thereon, Zinnbauer’s men started to build from the back, while Leopards were chasing were forced to chase shadows.
Pirates game-plan worked like a charm as they caught Lidoda Duvha’s defence napping and pounced through Innocent Maela, who benefitted from a loose ball.
And that was the eventual shift in gears as Pirates fully grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, albeit going into the break with the slender lead after missing chances upfront or being denied by some piece of good goalkeeping from Jonas Mendes.
Down but not out. Leopards dusted themselves off and showed a menacing side when Kapinga raced his way to Pirates’ box before teeing up marksman Mwape Musonda, who easily side-footed his efforts into the bottom corner.
But this Pirates’ side showed a sterner side as they didn’t dropp their heads even when the chips were down. Their turn-over was propelled by fan-favourite Luvuyo Memela, who had produced mesmeric skill inside Leopards’ box before teeing up Gabadinho Mhango, who slotted past Mendes.
The Sea Robbers continued to press high in numbers, in search of their third, and those efforts were richly rewarded when Mhango won his side a spot-kick after being fouled by Mendes inside his own box.
The Malawian strike dusted himself off, and took the responsibility as his efforts came on the underside of the bar and rolled into the net. A Merry Christmas present for the Bucs’ faithful.