Rhulani Mokwena’s new Pirates show progress, but not enough
Orlando Pirates were pretty, snappy and entertaining in the first half, but increasingly on the back foot in the second in their 0-0 Absa Premiership draw against AmaZulu at King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi on Tuesday night.
AmaZulu coach Cavin Johnson had goalkeeper Siyabonga Mbatha pull up injured in the warm-up, meaning a debut in the sticks for 23-year-old Neil Boshoff.
Bucs, for a team reeling from the loss only on Friday of head coach Milutin Sredojevic, were more than decent at the start, but increasingly faded.
Pirates’ first match under caretaker-coach Rhulani Mokwena, Saturday’s 1-0 MTN8 defeat against Highlands Park at Orlando Stadium, was a touch underwhelming.
Of course it was. Mokwena — arguably SA’s most exciting young coach in the school of theory, and now getting his first chance to test himself in the college of hard knocks — had less than a day, and apparently not one training session, to work with his squad.
On Tuesday night, with just another single day’s training on Monday, the strides made already under the ambitious young coach seemed actually fairly impressive.
The caretaker-coach had a provocative XI out, starting from a backline that had the skill of Asavela Mbekile, Innocent Maela (in the middle next to Happy Jele) and Paseka Mako to call on, behind a midfield pairing of Fortune Makaringe and Xola Mlambo.
A frontline of Siphesihle Ndlovu, Vincent Pule, Thembinkosi Lorch and Gabadinho Mhango promised the smell of napalm on a KwaZulu-Natal evening.
The crispness of some of Pirates’ passing in the opening half was at times a marvel to behold, inasmuch as their finishing lacked the same level of execution.
● Hlompho Kekana’s marvelous long range strike early on suggested another night of success for champions Mamelodi Sundowns against Cape Town City but a 25th minute equaliser from Edmilson ensured a share of the spoils in a thrilling league encounter at Atteridgeville on Tuesday night.
The 1-1 draw came at the end of a high tempo, pulsating game with plenty of incident and evidence that Sundowns can be taken on at their home fortress.
It was always going to be a game with potential but early on it looked as if City were a little overawed by the champions.