Orlando Pirates are weighty favourites to reach the MTN8 final after a heavyweight performance dismissing Kaizer Chiefs 3-0 in the first leg of their MTN8 semifinal at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.
Bucs put in a strong 90 minutes‚ punctuated by goals by Zakhele Lepasa in 26th minute‚ Vincent Pule in the 67th and Theminkosi Lorch in the 81st. The first Soweto derby to be played in front of a closed stadium in the Covid-19 new normal was watchable as Pirates‚ especially‚ put in a good shift.
Bucs had threatened to click once coach Josef Zinnbauer figured out how to harness their strength retained from last season’s third-placed league finishers and a lot of strong signings.
On Saturday Bucs found that groove‚ while Chiefs‚ as they had in last Saturday’s league defeat by the same scoreline to Mamelodi Sundowns‚ were exposed by a classy combination‚ leaving coach Gavin Hunt with more posers to ponder.
Zinnbauer’s six changes from his team’s 1-1 midweek draw against Stellenbosch FC seemed too many as the coach continues to seek out his best combinations.
But the introduction of troublesome Lepasa up-front for Gabadinho Mhango‚ and return‚ finally‚ of influential Lorch to the frontline for his first start of the season‚ proved spot on. Lorch‚ even with off-field issues hanging over his head‚ provided the spark that got Bucs’ engine‚ which had spluttered in 2020-21‚ turning over. Scarily‚ Bucs looked like they still have plenty more in the tank.
Hunt had made just one change from his side’s 1-0 win against Chippa United away on Tuesday where Chiefs could have won by a lot more.
For a second time in a week‚ Hunt – like Zinnbauer‚ still seeking his best combinations – saw that in strength match-ups against his big-signing big three rivals‚ travel ban-affected Amakhosi are a behind in firepower.
Amakhosi had the early chances‚ as Chiefs left-back Philani Zulu chipped from the back‚ and Ntsikelelo Nyauza allowed Khama Billiat in behind him. Nyauza recovered‚ and was beaten again by Billiat‚ who skimmed the bar with a shot.
Billiat broke down the left without support and did well to advance and keep the ball under the attentions of Thulani Hlatshwayo‚ and tee up late-arriving Castro in the middle‚ who miscued.
Lorch played a role in Bucs regaining momentum‚ as his free-kick was dangerous played behind the defence‚ falling to the feet of Nyauza‚ who directed at Daniel Akpey. Moments later Pirates worked the ball down the left where Terrence Dzvukamanja cross was accurate to pick out the ghosting run into space of Lepasa‚ who made no mistake with the header past Akpeyi.
Pirates could have made it 2-0 moments before the break‚ Wayde Jooste beating players on the right‚ cutting in and chipping to Vincent Pule on the left as Chiefs’ defence evaporated. The Bucs wing opted to look for two players inside when he might have tried to finish.
Chiefs had sporadic chances‚ Billiat’s corner from the right played back across from the far post by Castro‚ Siyabonga Ngezana’s header forcing a save from Richard Ofori.
Bucs’ second came through characteristic precision of application from Zinnbauer’s team‚ with what seemed a training ground set-piece. Hlatshwayo’s free-kick forward from his own half on the left fed the run out wide of Lorch‚ who crossed hard for Pule to control and shoot low past Akpeyi.
On a counterattack substitute, Deon Hotto advanced from in front of his own box and lobbed perfectly across to Lorch on the right to run through and smash a third past Akpeyi.