Monday, 22 July 2013

Chiefs on a high, Pirates at a low: but don't be fooled by pre-season friendlies

Inside Knowledge: Musona scored on Sunday and
has shrugged off injury concerns as "cramp"
ON the face of it the South African domestic football season got off to very different starts for the two Soweto giants over the weekend.

At Orlando on Friday night, the Pirates were unable to breach the spotty Leopards defence in a disappointing 0-0 draw which saw new striker Lennox Bacela fail to score against the very ordinary Congo champions.

At Loftus Versfeld on Sunday, Kaizer Chiefs lifted the Gauteng Cup with a rip-roaring 4-1 win over Bloemfontein Celtic – and Knowledge Musona scored the third on his return to the club on loan.

The social networks made a meal of football’s long-awaited return. Roger de Sa was widely lampooned as a coach in crisis after his too-little-too-late decision to resort to two strikers as the Buccaneers desperately attempted to get their African Champions League Group A challenge off to a winning start.

But Stuart Baxter, after a first season which saw the AmaKhosi lift the PSL and Nedbank Cup double, could do no wrong as his side demolished Siwelele – Willard Katsande scored with a curling cross and even rarely-glimpsed Kaizer Motaung Junior slipped on to the score sheet at Loftus.

De Sa was left desperately defending his decision to put the unloved Ndumiso Mabena on ahead of Zambia’s blockbusting Collins Mbesuma late on Friday night. I texted Roger just after half-time suggesting he should go with two up front, calling for my namesake to add firepower.

Instead, we got Mabena amid widespread twitter fury with De Sa explaining: “Mabena is in much better shape. Collins was off with Zambia’s national team so he got to our pre-season training later than the rest. He’s not a small guy; he carries a lot of wait.

“He could only play a half in our friendly in Lesotho. He was poor, he was out of touch – no disrespect to him but we tried again during training last week and we have to select on what we see there.

 “Mabena and Bacela were the two strikers we went with because of what we saw in training. I couldn’t pick Mbesuma simply because he scored 20 goals five years ago!”

On the result itself, De Sa lamented: “We created plenty of chances, I’m happy with that, but we are disappointed, we deserved a win after that second half.”

Baxter, on the other hand, was glowing: “Considering it’s so early in the season, I thought we were excellent at times. It was a decent performance, we worked hard.

“I was particularly pleased to see Morgan Gould play like that – he’s only about 75 percent fit. He's had two one hour spells in the practice games that we played. It was a good work-out with the Carling Cup to come next weekend.”

Yes. The Carling Cup. That bizarre, glitzy friendly where the fans decide. Could be interesting.

Depressed Pirates fans should consider this: they made the Congo champions look very ordinary and with Group A’s Egyptian giants Al Ahly and Zamalek playing at a neutral Red Sea resort on Wednesday, their Champions League campaign is far from over.

For celebrating Chiefs fans, perspective is needed. The Gauteng Cup – like he Carling Cup – is a mere pre-season detail.

These early warning shots are not decisive. A long season lies ahead. Wits and SuperSport United are building furiously. Let’s not judge anything – or anyone – just yet.

KNOWLEDGE MUSONA was carried off on a stretcher during his goal-scoring debut on Sunday but he confirms: "It was nothing, just cramp. I'll be fine - but I do need to work on my sharpnessl.

"The fans were awesome, it' great to be back."

"I thought we played really well for a pre-season game but we have plenty of work left to do/"

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  1. When Musona says he needs to work on his fitness you must know that defenders are in trouble.

  2. I don't rate Bacela or Mabena. Poor strikers. Pirates need better.

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