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Pirates are three steps away from redemption in their quest to return to Africa

FILE - Orlando Pirates co-coach Mandla Ncikazi. Photo: Abbas Farda/BackpagePix

FILE - Orlando Pirates co-coach Mandla Ncikazi. Photo: Abbas Farda/BackpagePix

Published May 23, 2022

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Cape Town — Orlando Pirates are three steps away from redemption after their failed CAF Confederation Cup campaign was left in ruins at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, in Nigeria, on Friday night.

After the match, Pirates interim co-coach Mandla Ncikazi declared: "We disappointed our fans at home. We disappointed millions of South Africans and the Nigerian support that we had."

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The beleaguered Pirates will set out to redeem themselves by winning their remaining DStv Premiership matches to ensure they will have another crack at CAF glory next season. They need to win all three matches to at least challenge for a Confederation Cup berth.

Even if they win all three games, they could be pipped for a Champions League berth because are likely to have better goal differences. The first of these matches will be against Maritzburg United on Tuesday at Orlando Stadium (start 7.30pm).

For Maritzburg, the season may have theoretically ended on Saturday when they defeated Chippa United and finally avoid the dreaded relegation drop or the curse of playing in the PSL relegation/promotion play-offs.

Coach Ernst Middendorp's concern at this stage would be the composition of his staff for next season and he may use their final match of the season as a stock-taking exercise.

Maritzburg will rely on their inspirational central defender Alfred Ndengane who has a penchant for scoring goals from deep options. He has already bagged four this season, but his big challenge will be to keep the side's defence in shape against Pirates.

The seasoned midfielder Daylon Klaasen will look to dominate in the midfield and exert pressure in the engine room with intrusions into Pirates' goalmouth.

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One Pirates player who must take 'Operation Redemption' to heart is Namibian Deon Hotto who was the scourge of the fans after he failed to covert two scoring chances. He produced a lively display but was disappointing in the striking zone.

The outing against Maritzburg will give him chance to turn the team's fortunes around and kickstart the three-game sequence on a victorious note.

Another Pirates player out to redeem himself is Thembinkosi Lorch who missed a penalty during the shootout in the final, which saw Pirates pipped 5-4. It was a bitter-sweet moment when Lorch was named 'Man of the Match' after he scored the equaliser for Pirates in regulation time.

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He produced a lively performance on the night and proved a handful for RS Berkane's defence. He enjoyed some excellent runs into the Moroccan half and threatened on several occasions.

Pirates never lost to Maritzburg in the last 11 meetings. Both have not been scoring many goals in the Premiership season. Orlando scored only one goal in the last five outings and during that time, Maritzburg have bagged four clean sheets.

The Pirates' technical staff will be aware of Maritzburg's giant-killing acts this season after they defeated Mamelodi Sundowns and Royal AM in the Premiership.

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Pirates are seventh on the Premiership table Ncikazi is looking for a better finish when the season finally ends.

"As coaches, we have a responsibility to lift up the players," Ncikazi. "We are playing a league match on Tuesday, and these are the same players that must play.

"It has not been a good season for our team and the reasons are the ones that you saw in the final. We dominated but the outcome at the end did not reflect the final product. It (the result) was not the way we played.

"The players will come back, Pirates will come back, Pirates can play better than what they did in the final. It is a big brand, and we just have to prove that on the field of play.

On Friday, Pirates will travel to KwaZulu-Natal for the match at Chatsworth Stadium against Royal AM.

Pirates' last match of the season will be against SuperSport United at the Lucas Moripe Stadium next Monday.

@Herman_Gibbs

IOL Sport

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