Second half – Pirates stick to plan
In the second period, coach Milutin Sredojevic admitted that his side looked to keep the ball as a way of defending as well as a way of being patient and probing for openings as Chiefs began to tire. When Manyama ran out of steam, Bernard Parker came into the action but he was no better equipped to play as a defensive winger. Solinas had little else of any use on his bench. The Pirates bench had Augustine Mulenga, and his introduction against Chiefs’ tired legs made a big difference as he provided the assist for Shonga’s goal, where no Chiefs defender reacted when the scorer’s bicycle kick failed and he had time to jump up, dribble past Mphahlele and score in untypically composed fashion.
Pirates’ wide play in the second period was impressive, with Lorch linking up well with a previously quiet Shonga, whilst Pule was found with cross-field switches of play by Mlambo and could run at Godfrey Walusimbi. One such dribble nearly set up an open goal chance for Shonga. The goal came late, but had the contest ended 1-1 and gone to extra time, Pirates’ movement of the ball was likely to eventually yield chances as an ageing Chiefs team fatigued further.
Billiat invisible, missing Ntshangase
This was one of Billiat’s quietest
games for Chiefs. He had just four touches in the penalty area, one shot (a hopeful bicycle attempt in the 94th minute), and his only shot assist was his speculative pass which Castro scored from. Without Ntshangase on the field over the last four games (three starts for Maluleka and one for Andriamirado Andrianarimanana), Billiat has failed to score in any game and has been much less involved. Of Billiat’s 26 shots in the PSL this season, Ntshangase has played him the pass on 11 occasions. ‘Stash’ is the man who can link the side’s midfield and attack, and find Billiat in the pockets he favours. With two defensive midfielders selected, there was no link to the attack and, with Chiefs defending so deep, Billiat was disconnected from his midfield and front strike partner Castro for the most part.
After a superb start to the season as a Chiefs player, as the side played an open, attacking style, Billiat has since seen his performances dip as Solinas has moved to a more conservative, defensive style of play.
Chiefs old and out of ideas
Whilst Pirates looked mobile both on and off the ball, and full of energy in attack, Chiefs looked old and slow. Nyatama is older than any of Chiefs’ midfield, yet he makes up for that by moving the ball well, making forward passes and positioning himself effectively. Amakhosi’s midfield pairing was slow across the ground, their attack did not have the speed to play on the counter attack as Solinas had planned, and most alarmingly, Manyama looked ineffective as he struggles to shed weight after a year of inactivity. He was never a very speedy player, and therefore always struggled as a winger, but excelled when used as a number 10 or false nine at Cape Town City. At Chiefs, he is stationed on the flank where he offers little to the attack and does not have the fitness or energy to track the opposition’s attacking fullbacks. His selection for this game made no sense, and a defensively solid player like Philani Zulu would have been more suitable in Chiefs’ ultra-defensive game plan. When it came to Chiefs trying to play out from the back, Booysen was completely uncomfortable on the left of the pairing and often gave the ball away with long passes over the top. Both fullbacks were exposed with a lack of defensive protection from the wide players. When Chiefs needed some fresh impetus from the bench, there was not much to call on. Manyama ran out of steam after an hour, so Parker came on to play as a wide man.
Pirates dominated possession in this game, having 60.8% possession, making 565 passes to Chiefs’ 312. They had 13 shots to Chiefs’ six, though Amakhosi had just four shots in the first 89 minutes of football. They also only managed three corners, which was a missed opportunity as Mabokgwane looked in trouble from every high ball he had to deal with. First, he fumbled a first half cross from Walusimbi, then he had two weak attempts to punch clear in the latter stages. Had Chiefs played a more attacking game and tested the goalkeeper more often on crosses or set plays, they could have forced further errors.
Pirates’ Justin Shonga (centre) celebrates his winning goal with teammates during last Saturday’s derby.