Pirates chasing their African dream
A 2-2 draw will bring the trophy home, but coach De Sa expects a tough Al Ahly in Cairo
ORLANDO PIRATES have played five matches against Egyptian opposition since August and, while they were unbelievably successful in their first two, they have been found out by the opposition in the latter three.
Pirates hammered Al-Ahly and Zamalek in their opening two African Champions League group phase games, sending shockwaves throughout continental football. But as they head into tomorrow’s final, second leg, against Ahly here, they know they are no longer a closed book and will have to perform exceptionally well to return with the trophy.
Roger de Sa acknowledged yesterday that while his team have done well to come this far, it was becoming more difficult to get results, unlike the case in the opening stages, when they hammered Ahly 3- 0 in El Gouna and Zamalek 4- 1 in Soweto.
“In our last two matches against Ahly, they were better prepared than in the first. They have studied us so much that it would be futile to have a closed training session.
“We play the same way, and they too have the same approach. We may have been a bit of a closed book at the beginning, but now everyone knows we are not going to change our strategy much. All our games have been on TV, so people see we play the same way,” De Sa said.
Pirates may have to alter tactics to emerge victorious at the Arab Contractors Stadium tomorrow evening ( 6pm SA time). That they are now known, as De Sa said, has left Pirates winless in six successive Champions League games. Two games against Ahly ended in draws, including last week’s 1-1 result in the first leg at Orlando, which has left Bucs with a mountainous task of having to score here to stand a chance of claiming the trophy and $ 1.5m first prize.
Pirates also lost to AC Leopards and Zamalek in the group phase, and qualified for the final after drawing 0-0 and 1-1 with Esperance.
Tomorrow, a win is not necessarily a must, with Bucs able to claim the championship with a 2-2 draw or more, but not since their thrashing of Zamalek on August 17 have they been able to score more than once in this competition.
“Ahly are in the lead because they want only a cleansheet to win it. So I don’t expect that they will change their approach. It will be a cat-andmouse situation, like it was at Orlando (last week). They will come with a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 formation, attack in the first 10 minutes and retreat. They then press on in the late stages of the half,” De Sa said.
It’s unlikely the Pirates coach will deploy a two-striker approach as Lennox Bacela and Collins Mbesuma have hardly started together throughout this competition.
Sifiso Myeni has been Bucs’
“Ahly are in the lead because they want only a cleansheet to win it. So I don’t expect that they will change their approach that much. It will be a cat-and-mouse situation, like it was at Orlando.”
main link man, starting attacking from midfield and feeding Bacela, but De Sa could be tempted to push him into a wide position because in the first leg, Ahly assigned two men to mark him, significantly cutting out supply to Bacela.
Pirates will meanwhile, train at the Arab Contractors Stadium this evening, and the state of the pitch should tell De Sa if it would be possible for Pirates to impose their normal passing game which, in the absence of suspended Andile Jali, could be a challenge on a bumpy surface.
De Sa, however, knows he and his players are just one game away from history, with victory set to ensure their names are remembered for years to come.
“A lot of people believe we have a chance, and that was not the case a few months ago. I received many messages from my colleagues back home, including Pitso Mosimane and Stuart Baxter. I know we’ve been stuffing up the domestic schedule but it’s great that we have made it this far.”
If only Pirates can give it one last push and annex only South Africa’s second Champions title.
LINK MAN: Sifiso Myeni of Pirates gets his pass away during a recent Champions League match between Pirates and Al Ahly . His presence tomorrow as a feeder for the attack could prove crucial in Roger de Sa’s plans.