|Drought: Lennox Bacela|
SINCE THEIR MTN8 semi-final first leg win over Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates have been widely praised for their progress on several fronts.
Reaching the final of the MTN8 and the last four of the African Champions League has certainly taken the pressure off Roger De Sa after a rocky end to last season, when the double-treble winners finished trophyless.
But a quick review of their recent form suggests serious problems in the Buccaneer camp – and I’m not referring to Lucky Lekgwathi.
Veteran captain Lekgwathi was mysteriously dropped for the MTN8 final defeat on penalties against Platinum Stars in Durban last week, and the 37-year-old followed up with a newspaper column revealing there are “sinister forces” at work in Orlando.
A picture of De Sa in animated discussion with Screamer Tshabalala behind the scenes in Durban did nothing to settle nevers in the Sea Robber camp.
And late on Saturday night, in an attempt to explain Lekgwathi’s absence from the 0-0 draw against Esperance where he was serving a two-match ban, reports emerged that Lekgwathi has suffered the death of an aunt and illness to his father.
Nobody in the camp will explain the Lekgwathi situation. I spoke to injured full-back Patrick Phungwayo, but he was under orders to tell me: “What we have to do is get on with it and put these things to one side. We are on the verge of the African Champions League final, that is our focus.”
But Saturday’s toothless effort against the Tunisian champions suggests the real sinister forces surround the Pirates’ inability to score goals.
Have a look at this run of results since that 1-0 Soweto Derby win in the MTN8 semi-final first leg on August 24:
LOST: 1 Sept: Zamalek: 1-2 (away) African Champions League Group A
LOST: 14 Sept: AC Leopards 0-1 (away) African Champions League Group A
WON: 18 Sept: Polokwane City 1-0 (home) PSL
DRAW: 22 Sept: Al Ahly 0-0 (home) African Champions League Group A
DRAW 24 Sept: Kaizer Chiefs 1-1 (home) MTN8 semi-final second leg
DRAW: 28 Sept: Platinum Stars 1-1 (neutral, lost 3-1 on penalties) MTN8 final
DRAW: 5 October: Esperance 0-0 (home, Champs League semi-final, first leg)
I make that SEVEN games with ONE win. Four draws were compounded by the MTN final loss to Platinum Stars at the Moses Mabhida.
You can’t deny a couple of those draws were vital – that’s all they needed to progress against Kaizer Chiefs and Al Ahly – and if they win their 4 games in hand, they could go top of the PSL by FOUR clear points.
But most worrying of all is their goal tally over the last seven games: Pirates have scored just FOUR goals and conceded FIVE.
The much-hyped Lennox Bacela, after a useful start following his move from Bloemfontein Celtic, has only scored ONE – from the penalty spot against Chiefs – in the eight games since August.
Roger himself said after another goalless effort against Esperance: “We had enough chances to score at least one. At this level you have to take those chances.
“A 0-0 draw isn’t that bad. We did okay. We battled hard against one of the best sides in Africa.”
When the SABC pitch-side interviewer suggested much-hyped Esperance were “ordinary”, De Sa did well to keep his equilibrium, saying: “They’re a good side, believe me. They will take their chances at home. But we just have to get one in Tunisia.
“We’ve got something to work with. We’re still in it.”
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