Have Orlando Pirates turned the corner after win over Stellenbosch FC?

Goal looks at Bucs’ performance against Stellies and discusses whether they are improving

Premier Soccer League (PSL) giants Orlando Pirates‘ narrow victory over Stellenbosch FC has eased pressure on interim coach Rhulani Mokwena and his charges.

The Soweto giants were desperate for a win, having failed to win their previous two matches, which were PSL encounters against Bidvest Wits and Cape Town City.

A hard-fought 1-0 victory over Stellies has earned Pirates a spot in the 2019 Telkom Knockout Cup quarter-finals which also bought more time for Mokwena.

This then begs the question: Have Pirates turned the corner?

Goal explains why Mokwena still has a problem he needs to fix quickly despite the win over Stellenbosch.

Defence Untested

The Stellies starting line-up raised eyebrows when it was released, as regulars and experienced players were left out on the bench by coach Steve Barker.

The local tactician was still able to adopt a defensive approach despite having benched veteran defenders Morgan Gould, Marc Van Heerden and Robyn Johannes.

The visitors sat back and hoped for the best as they attempted to use their speed to punish Pirates on the counter whenever they won the ball in their half.

This allowed Pirates to dictate the pace of the game and control possession throughout the match, which meant that the hosts’ defence was left untested for long periods.

However, there were times when Stellies were able to launch counter-attacks, but their inexperience in the final third showed.

They were unable to seriously test Wayne Sandilands in the Bucs goal as experienced strikers Waseem Isaacs and Ryan Moon did not feature for the visitors.

Pirates would have been punished for leaving spaces at the back against a top PSL team as this was evident in their matches against Wits and Cape Town City, when they conceded seven goals.

It is quite clear that Mokwena and his technical team need to ensure there is a greater emphasis on the team’s defensive structures than its attacking formations at the moment.

Finding the right balance between attack and defence is critical for the young tactician if he is to guide the team to their first silverware since 2014.

Encouraging Signs

Vincent Pule’s return to the team’s starting line-up has come as a welcome boost as the attacking midfielder has proved to be Pirates’ chief-orchestrator.

The South Africa international displayed his ability to create something out of nothing against Stellies in a night which saw the Soweto giants create countless chances which they failed to convert.

Goals will flow for the Buccaneers once Pule forms a good understanding with in-form striker Tshegofatso Mabasa and reigning PSL Footballer of the Year Thembinkosi Lorch.

Lorch finally opened his scoring account for the season against Stellenbosch and the goal has come as a massive boost for the talented attacker’s confidence.

There’s no doubt that Pirates will be difficult to defeat once Lorch rediscovers last season’s form which saw him play an instrumental role in helping the Buccaneers finish second in the PSL and Telkom Knockout Cup.

Furthermore, Fortune Makaringe is now more settled at the Houghton-based side having grabbed an assist when he set-up Lorch for the only goal of the match on Saturday evening.

The influential midfielder, who recorded an impressive 11 assists at Maritzburg United last season, could be key to Pirates’ hopes of winning some silverware this season.

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