Sunday, 9 August 2015

Orlando Pirates produce the BIG result of the weekend. And they weren't even playing in the PSL.

Chipper at Chippa: former Chiefs keeper Dalyan Hawes
ONE point for Kaizer Chiefs on the opening weekend? Well it's better than Arsenal!


South Africa's the reigning champions went on a long winning run to start last season under Stuart Baxter but there is no reason to panic just yet.

Perhaps the most impressive facet of Chiefs opening clash in front of 35,000 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was the deadpan reaction from new coach Steve Komphela, the man who talks the talk.

Encouraged to pontificate about a wonderful game packed with erm... flowing football, Komphela immediately put his first League match in perspective: “A great game? That’s not what I saw. I’ll have to have another look at it!

“We got a point. Should I be happy with that? I’m happy with the defence but we didn’t score a goal. And we should have. Kaizer Chiefs need to be consistent.”

Komphela is right of course. In England, champions Chelsea also got off to a one-point start against lowly Swansea, a very similar result to Chiefs given the reputation of the clubs involved.

But in front of a huge crowd, the side that took a record 69 points winning the PSL title last season never really looked like winning.

Komphela has the same problem Baxter had last season: he doesn’t have a decent striker. David Zulu was largely anonymous again, Bernard Parker simply refuses to attack the ball in the box, there's no sign of a great goal-getter on the horizon: the goals are going to have to come from the midfield.

Typically Siphiwe Tshabalala came closest, rattling Dalyan Hawes’ cross-bar. But at the other end, the returning Itumeleng Khune was the busier of the two goalkeepers, keeping on effort out with a hastily out-stretched leg.


Hawes, a former Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper who played college soccer in the USA, was impressive but didn’t need a miracle to keep Chiefs at bay. He did, however, have a strong debut and I suspect the 23-year-old's "short term contract" will be extended, which is rare from Mr Mpengesi.


Truth is, despite the SuperSport hype, it wasn’t a great game. It was nice to see the PSL put out a crowd figure for once (they only do it for big crowds, two or three times a season), but in truth, most will have left disappointed. There’s a long season ahead but the early red card for Chiefs - coming after their off-side goal against Maritzburg United in the MTN8 - will have the cynics whispering.

Too many decisions got the way of the big clubs in South Africa, too many referees are eager to please the mega-rich dictators of our game. It has to be examined. But it won't be. Any more than our attendance figures, transfer dealings or international selections.


But why focus on the grim? In truth, as I write, the best performance of the weekend didn’t come from the PSL in the opening weekend at all.

It came from Chiefs’ Soweto rivals Orlando Pirates against CS Sfaxien. Their 2-0 win, with goals from Menzi Masuku and Thabo Rahkale, was great to watch. The Tunisians lost it when Sifiso Myeni began showboating in front of the Orlando fans, a moment to savour.


How long have we waited to see a bit of Khasi Magic disrupt our northern cousins? They hated it. It's what we should be doing.

It was South Africa football at it’s best, and a result which just about guarantees the Buccaneers a place in the CAF Confederations Cup semi-finals with Egypt’s Zamalek. Nine points from four games represents top stuff from Eric Tinkler, the coach who still doesn’t have a contract.

Tinkler was typically down-beat after the game, as he juggles his squad to keep them fresh after an off-season of long trips around the continent. But the bottom line: "I'm proud of my players. They've been through a lot."

Both the PSL and the British Premier League are barely out of the blocks yet. Chelsea and Chiefs will have better days. So will Arsenal and Mamelodi Sundowns. But we can say this with some confidence: Orlando Pirates are doing the nation proud.


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