Struggling Orlando Pirates head to KZN to face an inconsistent Maritzburg United
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Cape Town – Fresh from their continental engagement over the weekend, Orlando Pirates take on Maritzburg United on Wednesday at the Harry Gwala Stadium in a DStv Premiership clash.
Pirates would have been pleased with the goalless draw against Diables Noirs in the first leg of the CAF Confederation Cup first-round clash at the Alphonse Massamba-Debat Stadium in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo.
Now back on home soil, Pirates will be keen to continue in that vein. This season, both Pirates and Maritzburg have been inconsistent. Pirates are in seventh place and should be favourites against the hosts. They were held to a 1-1 draw by Cape Town City in their previous league game.
Maritzburg are several places lower down the standings in 11th place and are on a two-match losing streak, The home side suffered a 2-1 defeat earlier this month and will want to bounce back in this match.
In their previous meeting, they clashed in the Nedbank Cup earlier this year and ended in a 3-1 victory for Pirates.
For now, Pirates seem to have settled their defence and their rearguard was impressive when they did not concede away to the Congolese outfit.
The draw over the weekend extended the Buccaneers' winless run to three matches across all competitions.
Pirates caretaker c-coach Mandla Ncikazi reflected on the weekend match said the team will build on the gutsy performance in Brazzaville.
“One must remember that we can beat these opponents when we play at home in Johannesburg (next weekend)," said Ncikazi.
"I am happy with the performance of the players and how they applied themselves in difficult conditions.
“Based on the conditions that we faced in Congo-Brazzaville, let’s take the point and the performance of the players on what was artificial turf.
“With how the opponents treated us, one has to appreciate the personality and character of the players.
"Let’s take the point because we are not done yet, but we must remember if they score against us at home there are going to be problems."
Ncikazi will be going into Wednesday's match with mixed emotions. He is a former Maritzburg United coach and worked there before joining Lamontville Golden Arrows in 2016.
Goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane was in fine form over the weekend and produced several good saves to deny the hosts. His performance between the sticks will be crucial for Pirates.
Another player to produce a stand-out performance was midfield dynamo Paseka Mako. He worked tirelessly down the left flank and kept asking questions from the opposition defence.
He was at the heart of Pirates' attacking sorties down the flank, and his goalmouth crosses kept his front runners in play, except they did not convert. It will be a different Pirates team if the front-runners can strike up cohesion with the midfield.