Pirates aim to revive their title hopes
Drubbing by SuperSport United two seasons ago still a painful memory for Bucs
Orlando Pirates face SuperSport United on Wednesday night on a ground that has haunting memories for them as they attempt to revive their hopes of a Premiership title.
The Buccaneers return to Mbombela Stadium‚ where in their abysmal 2016-17 season, they took a 6-1 hammering from SuperSport.
Everything coach Milutin Sredojevic has done at Bucs in the subsequent two campaigns has been geared towards erasing the memories of the campaign in which Pirates ended 11th in the league‚ and bringing back a trophy they last won in 2014.
As positive as the signs have been finishing runners-up last season‚ and being in third place in the hunt for the title this campaign‚ a trophy has remained elusive.
Bucs’ stuttering run — unbeaten in 15 league matches‚ but having drawn five of their last seven‚ and won just once in seven games in all competitions — might have raised nerves that predictions of this being the year of the Buccaneer might be dissipating.
Fears are that Pirates might again be close but not get that cigar in 2018/19.
No match-up has exposed Pirates this season quite so much as their last one‚ a 2-0 group stage defeat in Tunisia against Caf Champions League defending champions Esperance de Tunis, where Bucs goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands’ heroics kept the scoreline low.
Sredojevic felt it was a naively conceded goal from a free-kick in the 16th minute — Anice Badri allowed to run unmarked on to Youcef Belaili’s pass and finish — that left Pirates chasing the game.
“We entered very strong in the match and did very well until one moment of losing concentration cost us so much in that set piece‚” Bucs’ coach said. “A moment where you fall down with the result‚ like we fell in that first half. You are forced to put yourself into an attacking mode‚ introducing strikers and looking to equalise. During that period of looking to equalise we conceded that second goal that put the game beyond our control.”
Pirates can be pleased that they travel to Nelspruit having perhaps put to bed a period of domination they had suffered at the hands of SuperSport with a 3-1 league win in the first round at Orlando Stadium on September 9.
That result ended a nine-match winless streak against Matsatsantsa that included two Nedbank Cup final defeats (3-2 and 4-1)‚ the 6-1 hammering in 2016-17 and a penalties MTN8 defeat this season‚ a month before the league meeting.
Pirates will want three points again on Wednesday‚ and then to hopefully repeat that against tough AmaZulu at Orlando on Saturday. For it is weeks such as these‚ and the response of teams to them‚ that can decide winners from also-rans.