Bucs earn handy point away from home
FC PLATINUM (ZIM) 0 ORLANDO PIRATES (SA) 0
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.