MOGAMAD ALLIE: Chiefs fans likely to do the unthinkable and cheer on Pirates
Most Amakhosi faithful will be hoping the Bucs stop the Masandawana juggernaut
Kaizer Chiefs fans will be gritting their teeth and shutting their eyes as they do the unthinkable for 90-odd minutes on Wednesday evening by secretly coming out in support of arch-rivals Orlando Pirates in their Premier Soccer League (PSL) clash against record-hungry Mamelodi Sundowns.
For sure, there will be the few diehards who would rather jump off a cliff than entertain the ghastly thought of supporting the Buccaneers, if only briefly and expediently. However, most of the Amakhosi faithful, probably like most of the fans of the 14 other teams in the league, will be hoping Jose Riveiro’s side stop the Masandawana juggernaut if only to inject some jeopardy into the title race, notwithstanding its embryonic status.
Victory for Rhulani Mokwena’s side will see them extending their unbeaten run in the league to 31 games, equalling the mark set by Amakhosi between January and November 2005 when Ted Dumitru and then Ernst Middendorp were in charge.
That run set 18 years ago was brought to an end by Owen da Gama’s Silver Stars with a 4-2 victory over Amakhosi at Rustenburg’s Olympia Park on November 25 2005. Besides hoping that Pirates assist their team in clinging on to one of their last remaining records in the PSL, the Chiefs faithful would also love to see a seemingly invincible Sundowns being stopped in their tracks even if it’s achieved by the team they love to hate.
Avoiding defeat against Pirates and in their next league game, at home to Stellenbosch FC next Wednesday, will see Sundowns adding yet another record to their ever-expanding collection of landmarks.
The Chloorkop side, who boast a perfect record after six games, have already opened a yawning seven-point lead over second-placed Golden Arrows, as they once again threaten to reduce the rest of the field, who have already been dropping points like confetti, to chasing the runners-up spot.
Victory over Pirates, seen optimistically and wistfully by fans and followers of the PSL as a real hope to breathe some life into what has become a monotonous procession to the league title, will take the Brazilians 14 points clear of the Sea Robbers who would have two games in hand. They could potentially also be 13 clear of Chiefs who play SuperSport United on the same evening.
Pirates coach Jose Riveiro is targeting victory and showed his hand by resting several of his key players including top scorer Zakele Lepasa, Monnapule Saleng and Thabang Monare for last Sunday’s Champions League first leg of their second-round clash with Botswana’s Jwaneng Galaxy which they lost 1-0.
The Spaniard will no doubt be hoping that his gamble pays off particularly since it has left his side with some work to do if they are to reach the group stages of the Champions League. Sundowns, by contrast have all but booked their place in the group stages of the continental competition for a ninth successive season with their comprehensive 4-0 drubbing of Burundi’s Bumamuru.
After guiding the Buccaneers to an MTN8 and Nedbank Cup double in his first season with the club, Riveiro has won over The Ghost who are now hoping their team will kick on to bigger things. They could make a big statement with victory at the Orlando Stadium against the imperious champions though Pirates don’t have a good recent record in league encounters against Sundowns.
Mokwena’s side won both league games last season without conceding though Pirates trounced them 3-0 in the first leg of last season’s MTN8 semifinal and didn’t concede in the second leg which ended goalless.
The last time Pirates secured a league win over Sundowns was on January 15 2020 when Josef Zinnbauer’s side claimed a 1-0 victory at the Orlando Stadium courtesy of Gabadinho Mhango’s winner. Since then the Buccaneers have failed to win any of their next seven league games against Sundowns — who have scored 12 goals and conceded only once (in a 4-1 defeat in December 2021).
If Pirates, a club with arguably the second strongest squad in the league, can’t stop Sundowns then who can?
As it is, the Buccaneers already have some ground to make up after their opening day defeat against Stellenbosch and an away draw against Chippa United.
It may still be early days but anything less than a victory for Riveiro’s side, reluctantly backed by the Chiefs faithful, will even at this early stage send an ominous message to the rest of the chasing pack that, barring a calamity, the league race may be heading in the same direction it has over the previous few seasons when Sundowns cantered to the title with a significant part of the season still remaining.
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