Cape Town — Orlando Pirates' surprisingly good run in the CAF Confederation Cup's group phase could be the springboard for improved results in domestic competition.
On Sunday Pirates signed off their final Confederation Cup Group B assignment with an uninspiring goalless draw against Sudan's Al-Ittihad at Orlando Stadium in spoiling conditions as most of the match was played in rain.
Pirates had already secured qualification to the play-offs before this match and since they fielded several second-stringers it would have been a fruitful exercise despite the draw. Pirates dominated from start to finish but couldn't come to grips with the spoiling tactics of the Sundanese who were hellbent on scoring a draw to reach the quarter-finals.
Players like Bongani Sam, Ben Motshwari and Gabadinho Mhango were given a rare run, but their inclusion helped the regulars to take a break and be ready for the Premiership and Nedbank Cup fixtures over the next few days.
Orlando Pirates co-coach Mandla Ncikazi rightly pointed out that it was mission accomplished when the team secured its place in the quarter-finals two weeks ago when it topped the Group B log. In addition, Pirates also secured an R5.3m pay-day for reaching the quarter-finals.
“We would have loved to win the match, but we managed to achieve the bigger goal of qualifying and topping the group," said Ncikazi. "It was always our main objective.
“We also had at some point to think about the next match. I think we achieved more in today’s match, in terms of qualifying for the quarter-finals and topping our group. We also looked at the picture of the next match in trying to rest a few players in preparation for that match.
“I am happy for the team and happy for the players. It was a good effort against a low block sitting deep. You could say that the opponents were just playing for a draw, delaying tactics.
“I thought we dominated and took charge. We wanted to win the match. It (the goalless draw) is what it is but I’m still proud of the team for the achievement."
Striker Kabelo Dlamini and defensive midfielder Abel Mabaso were the stars for Pirates.
Dlamini proved a handful whenever in possession, and his pace put wide on the left allowed him to deliver a few threatening goalmouth crosses. He had a few half chances to score but was more effective as a provider.
Mabaso was solid in the midfield and shut down any attempts to penetrate the team's four-man rear-guard.
“I was happy for Dlamini. He had a (pre-match) situation, an unfortunate situation that I cannot disclose. It was great for him to play the way he played.
“I’m happy with our defence and how they applied themselves. I thought they were very solid."
Pirates midfield kingpin Thembinkosi Lorch joined the fray as a second-half substitute just past the hour mark/
“I was happy with Lorch coming in and contributing," said Ncikazi. "Substitute Siphesihle Ndlovu hasn’t played for a long time and along with (Gabadinho) Mhango, I was happy that they had an opportunity to play today."
Pirates will return to domestic action at, Emirates Airline Park on Wednesday with an away Premiership match against Sekhukhune United.