Pirates slump to third defeat in a row with MTN8 quarterfinal loss to Highlands
Orlando Pirates began life without coach Milutin Sredojevic on a wrong footing on Saturday night when they were knocked out of the MTN8 after a 1-0 quarterfinal home defeat against tournament debutants Highlands Park in front of their shocked supporters at Orlando Stadium.
Substitute Wayde Jooste silenced the Pirates crowd nine minutes from time when he strongly finished a low cross from former Bucs striker Tendai Ndoro on the right.
Ndoro’s ball caught the Pirates defence square and gave their goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands no chance of stopping it from kissing the roof of the net.
Sredojevic, who was in the final year of his three-season contract with the Buccaneers, resigned in a huff and under a cloud on Friday night.
The former Ugandan national team coach cited ‘personal reasons’ that were, however, on Saturday followed by strong speculation that he was on his way to joining Egyptian giants Zamalek.
Played in a subdued atmosphere at a sparsely-filled Soweto arena that has a 40,000 capacity, Bucs laboured to one of their unconvincing displays.
After the Serbian's departure Bucs management announced on the same Friday night that first assistant coach Rulani Mokwena was going to handle the team in a caretaker role until they clarify in the coming days as to who is to ascend to the hot seat.
Mokwena, who was often criticised for being hyper active on the Pirates bench during Sredojevic’s time, had the whole touchline to himself with no one disturbing him when he ventured out to issue instructions to his charges.
The first minutes of this game were dominated by the visitors, who pinned Bucs into their own half and took a few pots shots at Sandilands’ goal.
But the match later turned out to be a ding-dong, with the home side creating a few opportunities of their own, the major one coming in the 10th minute when young right back Thabiso Monyane shot over the bar after getting a through pass inside Highlands’ 18th area.
Towards the end of the first 45 minutes Bucs had two glaring chances falling on their ace winger Thembinkosi Lorch, but he too failed to beat Thela Ngobeni, making his debut in Highlands’ goals after joining the Ekurhuleni based club in June.
A comedy of errors in Bucs defence which has been leaking as a sieve in recent matches, nearly gifted Highlands the lead in the dying stages of the first half, in which Owen Da Gama’s team was looking to catch their opponents on the break.
Pirates’ defeat means the trophy drought continues for the Soweto giants who last lifted the trophy in June 2014 when they won the Nedbank Cup.
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