S'Busiso Mseleku

Did Pirates blow it?

2015-11-23 12:00
S’Busiso Mseleku (File)

South Africa has been doing fairly well in international football of late.

Leading the charge has been Orlando Pirates with an impressive run in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) second tier competition, the Confederation Cup.

While their form on the domestic front has been less than impressive - putting a lot of pressure on incumbent coach, Eric Tinkler - they have gone on a giant-killing spree on the continent.

They have so far slayed every continental Goliath that has stood in their way, leading to their faithful Ghost baptising them the Continental Giants.

They are just 90 minutes away from claiming the prize in the away leg against Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel.

However, there is just one spot of bother: The late goal they conceded in the first leg at Orlando Stadium might just prove to be their undoing.

You see, in such two-legged competitions, an away goal has more than  once proved to be more precious than gold.

In an event of a tie ending in a draw,   an away goal counts for two or the side that scores the most away goals, wins.

In this case, it means a goalless draw in Tunisia, will see the Tunisian side being crowned champions.

You should have seen their unbridled joy and ecstasy as soon as their skipper grabbed the late equaliser after the Bucs had taken the lead in the first half via a goal that is worthy to win any cup.

Those who vow by the black and white, the skull & crossbones of Pirates, would like to remind us that they won the African Champions Club Cup, now the Champions League, under almost similar circumstances some 20 years ago.

After a 2-all draw at the FNB Stadium against a then very strong Asec Mimosas of Ivory Coast, Pirates performed some heroics at the Stade Felix Houphouet Boigny in front of a huge and very hostile crowd.

To date, the goal scored by Jerry "Legs of thunder" Sikhosana, is stuff  that legends are made of.

In the week leading to this past Saturday's final first leg, Sikhosana did several interviews where he had to recount and relive that goal over and over again.

Now, Pirates have to once more draw from their giant-killing, never-say-die spirit as they travel to Tunisia for the second leg.

Tinkler must drum it into his charges' heads that a goalless draw will not be good enough. The best result would be a win for Pirates much as a draw of more than one goal will also favour them.

But, they must just go all out for a win instead of hoping for a lucky draw that favours them.

The latest draw also raises an age-old question of South African clubs and national teams' failure to take their fate   into their hands.

One has lost count of the number of times that we have had to whip out calculators and work out what South African football clubs and national teams had to do to either proceed to the next round of a competition or win outright.

And here we are again!

Pirates should not have allowed that goal.

It might just prove to be their undoing after such a sterling performance in this competition.

But as South Africans, we are all behind them and wish them all the best in the second leg.

It will be good for the country and serve as encouragement for other teams, including the SA Under-23s who are about to embark on the last leg of their qualifier to next year's Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.

They are in Senegal for a tournament in which the top three finishers will represent Africa at the global event.

Good luck to Pirates and the Under-23 national team.

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

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