Bucs earn handy point away from home

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT - FOOT­BALL REPORTER


OR­LANDO Pi­rates started their cam­paign in the group stage of the CAF Cham­pi­ons League with a goal­less draw against Zim­bab­wean cham­pi­ons FC Plat­inum yes­ter­day.

The re­sult might be dis­ap­point­ing in iso­la­tion but if you fac­tor in that group ri­vals Horoya and Esper­ance played to a draw on Fri­day, then it’s not that bad. A point away from home in the Cham­pi­ons League is big, while a win is gold.

The Buc­ca­neers have to do most of their busi­ness at home, start­ing on Fri­day against Horoya at Or­lando Sta­dium. A win would put them in a com­fort­able po­si­tion, es­pe­cially since they also have to jug­gle the Absa Premier­ship and the Ned­bank Cup this month.

The Soweto giants re­ceived a warm wel­come in their re­turn to the group stage of the Cham­pi­ons League af­ter a six-year wait. In 2013 Pi­rates were not only in the group stage of the Cham­pi­ons League, but they also went all the way to the fi­nal, where they lost to Africa’s Club of the Cen­tury Al-Ahly.

High­landers fans, whose club also wear black and white, came in their num­bers to sup­port Pi­rates in the sta­dium their team calls home. FC Plat­inum were forced to play al­most 200km away from their Man­dava Sta­dium be­cause it doesn’t meet CAF re­quire­ments.

But the Zim­bab­wean side still had great sup­port with the bulk of peo­ple who packed Bar­bour­fields Sta­dium clad in the green and white of the Plat­inum Boys.

Nor­man Mapeza’s team ar­rived in Bu­l­awayo on Tues­day to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with the con­di­tions.

They started the con­test the bet­ter of the two sides, trou­bling the phys­i­cally im­pos­ing but slow cen­tral de­fence trio of Mar­shal Munetsi, Happy Jele and Al­fred Nden­gane.

Pi­rates ab­sorbed the pres­sure and took their time in their build-up, draw­ing a com­pact FC Plat­inum to open be­fore they looked to strike.

The Buc­ca­neers were a lot like a co­bra, calm and com­posed as they stalked their prey be­fore un­leash­ing a ven­omous at­tack. But they weren’t force­ful enough in a con­test they were the over­whelm­ing favourites against a team ap­pear­ing in this stage of the Cham­pi­ons League for the first time.

The Plat­inum Boys are so young that the club was founded in the same year (1995) Pi­rates con­quered the con­ti­nent.

Pet­ros Mhari, through his bril­liant saves, kept the hosts in the match.

Ku­dak­washe Ma­hachi, who used to call this sta­dium home in his days at High­landers, was well-watched by his coun­try­men. They were aware of the dan­ger he poses, es­pe­cially now that he is in a rich vein of form hav­ing scored two goals in his last two matches as a sub­sti­tute.

Bucs coach Mi­lutin ‘Mi­cho’ Sre­do­je­vic gave him a start in his home­town.

Ma­hachi’s home­com­ing, how­ever, wasn’t as pleas­ant as he would have wanted. He was a ghost for the bet­ter part of this game and it wasn’t a sur­prise to see him make way for Vin­cent Pule in the last 15 min­utes.

Pi­rates wanted to add more at­tack­ing fire-power be­cause FC Plat­inum did most of the at­tack­ing in the sec­ond half.

They pep­pered Jack­son Mabokg­wane with a num­ber of lon­grange shots, but most were wide of the mark, much to the re­lief of the Buc­ca­neers, who were un­der the cosh but sur­vived to re­turn home with an im­por­tant point.

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