On nearly un­playable pitch, Pi­rates man­age to score cru­cial away goal

CityPress - - Sport - Cor­re­spon­dent – Own

appy Jele picked on the trend of Or­lando Pi­rates de­fend­ers be­com­ing the source of goals when the go­ing got tougher for the club’s strik­ers in con­ti­nen­tal com­pe­ti­tion.

He pounced on a half-cleared ball by the hosts’ de­fence as he snatched the soli­tary goal in the 58th minute that gave Pi­rates max­i­mum points in their open­ing cam­paign of the CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup group phase yesterday.

Jele, who is nor­mally de­ployed at right full­back, part­nered Siyabonga Sang­weni in the cen­tre of the rear­guard in the ab­sence of sus­pended Rooi Ma­hamutsa in their big match against AC Léopards yesterday.

The goal came af­ter pro­longed spells in which the Buc­ca­neers bat­tled the nearly un­playable pitch at Stade De­nis Sas­sou Nguesso more than they did their op­po­nents in Dolisie, Congo-Braz­zav­ille.

De­spite the bumpy sur­face, the Buc­ca­neers held well against a Léopards side that mostly re­lied on the long ball and set pieces in their at­tempt to pierce the visi­tors’ de­fence.

If it wasn’t the bat­tle to con­trol the ball, it was some nasty chal­lenges from the hosts that broke play and Pi­rates striker Len­nox Bacela came out the worse for wear in an aerial clash, as he was forced to play with a heav­ily ban­daged head for the bet­ter part of the open­ing half.

Bucs also owe their hard-fought vic­tory to goal­keeper Brighton Mh­longo, who backed up his side’s de­ter­mi­na­tion with some solid saves that not only shut out Léopards in the open­ing half, but pre­served the win.

It was a morale-boost­ing one for coach Eric Tinkler’s charges, who will meet Egyp­tian pow­er­house Za­malek at Mbombela Sta­dium in a fort­night.

While the Pi­rates de­fence held their ground in the Congo yesterday, their strike force was kept in check on the op­po­site end.

The part­ner­ship of Bacela and Ker­mit Eras­mus hardly threat­ened the Léopards rear­guard ex­cept on the rare oc­ca­sion when Bacela held off the de­fend­ers but took a tame shot at goal in the first half.

Gabuza’s sus­pen­sion came at the wrong time, as he is cur­rently the team’s form striker with four goals in as many matches for club and coun­try in con­ti­nen­tal com­pe­ti­tions so far.

The 27-year-old also found the tar­get for the na­tional team when he net­ted in Bafana Bafana’s 3-0 win over Mada­gas­car in the African Na­tions Cham­pi­onship qual­i­fiers last week­end.

Pi­rates’ vic­tory yesterday also marked an un­beaten run in seven matches in Africa’s sec­ond-tier cam­paign.

It was sweet re­venge for the de­feat – by the same score­line – that Léopards in­flicted on the Buc­ca­neers in the group stage of the CAF Cham­pi­ons League at the same Dolisie venue two years ago.

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