Title still in Bucs' hands
ORLANDO Pirates coach Augusto Palacios says two draws in as many matches have not derailed the reigning Absa Premiership champions' aspirations of defending the title.
Second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns' 1-0 defeat by Maritzburg United presented Pirates with a glorious chance to stretch their lead atop the table to four points. But The Buccaneers buckled under pressure and managed a drab goalless draw against Bidvest Wits at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.
Coming on the back of the scoreless stalemate with Moroka Swallows, the two draws means Pirates have dropped four points and collected two from a possible six.
But Palacios is adamant that he has got the Pirate ship sailing towards their fourth championship since the inception of the PSL and points to the league table to augment his argument.
"We are still on top of the table, correct?" said Palacios. "We are accumulating points. We have our destiny firmly in our own hands. We don't care what happens with the other contenders. The most important thing is not to lose."
Palacios says Bucs will regain their scoring touch and return to winning ways. Their next two matches are on the road, first against Ajax Cape Town - who lost 2-1 to SuperSport United - at Athlone and then against Matsatsantsa in Polokwane next week Tuesday.
A home fixture against Bloem Celtic will be followed by a final match of the campaign away to Lamontville Golden Arrows.
Against Ajax on Friday night they will have to do without the services of Oupa Manyisa, who is suspended after picking his third yellow card.
"We have a difficult game coming up but I am not worried about Manyisa's suspension. We have 35 players. Our strength is in our depth. If a player doesn't perform I will put another one and it is a clear message. The message is clear and every member of the squad knows that," Palacios said.
He plans to focus a lot of energy on fine-tuning their finishing, in preparation for the Ajax match.
"We created several clear chances against Swallows but just couldn't get the ball in the net. Against Wits we played badly in the first half. After the break we put more pressure but Rudolf Bester, (Daine) Klaite and Terminator (Dikgang Mabalane) didn't convert the chances," he said.
Palacios likened his counterpart Roger de Sa's approach to the game to that of Jose Mourinho.
"He put nine players in the back. It reminded me of when Mourinho was coaching Chelsea. Roger came with a proper plan to stop us from playing by closing spaces on the wings and in the centre."
De Sa left Mbulelo Mabizela on the bench. "He is on two yellows and I didn't want to risk him getting a third and automatic suspension. We need him more for the next game against Celtic," he said.