Orlando Pirates’ push for a second-place finish and a spot in 2022’s Caf Champions League suffered a major blow after the stuttering Buccaneers were beaten by TS Galaxy in Nelspruit on Sunday.
Pirates were caught cold as early as the third minute when Galaxy midfielder Masilakhe Phohlongo was allowed space inside the box to score with a header to give his side a lead they never relinquished at Mbombela Stadium.
The 1-0 defeat‚ a seventh defeat in the Premiership for Pirates to go with 12 wins and 10 draws‚ saw the Buccaneers remain stuck in fourth place on 46 points.
With two matches remaining this season‚ the Bucs are level on points with third-placed Lamontville Golden Arrows but trail second-placed AmaZulu by four points.
Pirates will now hope AmaZulu lose one of their remaining two matches‚ against Swallows and Maritzburg United‚ and have to win their own, against Baroka FC and Tshakuma FC, if they are to finish third and book themselves a place in the Caf Champions League.
A third-place finish will be a consolation for the Buccaneers but that too is not in their own hands and looks a mountain to climb as Arrows have to stumble against Kaizer Chiefs and Stellenbosch FC for that to happen.
Having conceded an early goal that put them on the back foot‚ things got worse for Pirates as utility midfielder Abel Mabaso saw red after two yellow cards in quick succession‚ but the numbers were level again on the stroke of halftime when Galaxy captain Spiwe Msimango was also sent off after a second bookable offence.
The Galaxy win‚ which the team celebrated wildly after the final whistle‚ is precious as it consolidates their spot in eighth place on 35 points. Four out of a possible six points in their remaining two matches, against Stellenbosch on Wednesday and against Chiefs on the final day on Saturday, June 5‚ would seal a place in 2022’s lucrative MTN8 Cup.
Despite having won the R8m MTN8 early this season‚ coach Josef Zinnbauer remains under huge pressure from the hard-to-please Ghost‚ as the Pirates fans are known‚ and the German coach knows that failure to qualify for the Caf competitions may result in his sacking after their league encounter against Tshakuma on Saturday.
Cutting a frustrated figure in his postmatch interview, Zinnbauer said his team was not worthy of a win.
“You know all the opponents are motivated when they play against us and if you are not in the game then you have no chance‚ but in all the performance today [there] was not enough to get the three points‚” said Zinnbauer.
Galaxy coach Owen da Gama praised his team and promised there will be more to come from his team.
“We have worked very hard for this win‚” said Da Gama. “Pirates is a quality side and for us to get this win shows we are [moving] in the right direction.”
The Galaxy coach also had special praise for Western Cape-born midfielder and goal scorer Phohlongo.
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