Sunday, 10 November 2013

Brave defeat for Orlando Pirates in Cairo: let's not go from Roger That to Roger And Out just yet

Flare: Al Ahly fans with their fireworks
GUTTED. Great job, never out-played. Heads high. Those were my words sizzling across the cellular network to Roger de Sa in Cairo as the whistle blew among the fireworks and green lasers in Cairo on Sunday night.

For Orlando Pirates, just getting to the final was unthinkable six short months ago, as the former double-treble champions stumbled home third behind arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs in the domestic title race.

To take Al Ahly, now eight times champions, to the very limit in the final was never on the schedule. Proof? Irvin Khoza and his PSL are in a shambles. Even the club and league chairman didn’t expect to get past the notorious TP Mazembe, run by one of the good Doctor’s dodgier pals.

But they did. The Comores, Zambia, DRC… then in the group stages two Egyptian giants and the Congo champions. Incredibly, they squeezed past Tunisia’s Esperance in the semi-finals too.

But to beat reigning champions Al Ahly proved half a step too far for Roger de Sa’s men. A bunch of experienced thirtysomething internationals with more stars than most galaxies was simply too much.

With Happy Jele and Andile Jali suspended for the second leg after a mediocre 1-1 draw in Orlando, it fell to the fast and furious Tlou Segolela to miss the chance of the night. Sadly, the Gautrain’s head can’t keep up with his feet. We knew that. He fluffed his header off Daine Klate’s perfect first-half cross.

Pyramid scheme: Wael Gomaa lifts the trophy

And up front, Lennox Bacela’s one chance flew across the face of the goal and by the time Collins Mbesuma came on for the last hurrah, the game was lost. Muhammed Aboutreika scored in both legs. He was the difference. The second goal was a luxury for the Egyptians.

Roger said he’d “have a go for sure” but even with the Egyptians down to ten for the dying minutes amid those annoying – and illegal – lasers, there was to be no consolation, just a grim 2-0 defeat, 3-1 on aggregate.

Within minutes, the more ridiculous members of our deeply confused football community were calling for Roger’s head. And 1995 match-winner Jerry Sikhosana told us, with a sad nod to beaten 2002 finalist Simba Maruma: “Nobody remembers the side finishing second.”

He’s right of course. But the sharper analysts will have seen how, in six short months, Pirates learned a lot from their African crusade. They play better, shorter football. They possess the ball jealously, like top European sides. And in Oupa Manyisa, they have a player who showed endless quality in the middle of the park with Vieira Masalesa ready to step up behind him.

If Pirates – bottom of the table after three games - were to win all their six or seven games in hand, they’d go five clear of current leaders Mamelodi Sundowns. It might happen.

But whatever happens, to go from ROGERTHAT to ROGEROUT is as ridiculous as calling for the head of Kaizer Chiefs boss Stuart Baxter after his epic 2-1 win over serious challengers Bidvest Wits on Saturday night.

Calm people. Pirates did the nation proud. Double-winning Chiefs take on Africa next year. They need our support, not hysterical derision.

PS: Will CAF do anything about those bloody lasers?

BOLLOCKZ! my show on www.ballz.co.za, airs every Thursday from 9am. See the Ballz channel on www.YouTube.com for our growing collection of interviews with the big names in South African football.


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3 comments:

  1. agree with u neal 100% the team including couching staff have done a good job by far i mean they play among the best teams in AFRICA,HOPING AMAKHOSI WILL TAKE OVER WERE PIRATES LEFT.

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  2. Yup, Chiefs will be hard pressed to do better than Pirates next year. But we live in hope!

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