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Pirates limp into previously war-torn Libya with a squad ravaged by walking wounded

Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo has reported back to Orlando Pirates from national duty with a severe stomach bug.
Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo has reported back to Orlando Pirates from national duty with a severe stomach bug.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackPagePix/Gallo Images

Orlando Pirates’ list of walking wounded has left coach Josef Zinnbauer plenty to manage as he seeks a winning combination in Libya against Al Ahli Bhengazi on Sunday evening.

Zinnbauer said most of Pirates’ players sent to the national camp for duty in the 0-0 home draw against Ghana and 2-0 away defeat to Sudan last week that saw Bafana Bafana fail to qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations had returned with injuries.

He said Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo returned with a stomach bug, but appears likely to play in the Caf Confederation Cup matchup at Martyrs of February Stadium (kickoff 6pm Libya and SA time).

Thabang Monare and Innocent Maela also returned with injuries, Zinnbauer said, adding to existing concerns such as Deon Hotto, Thabiso Monyane and Thembinkosi Lorch.

“We have players back from the national team now, and my feeling was all the players were injured,” Zinnbauer said in a digital press conference from Bhengazi on Saturday morning.

“‘Tyson’ has had big stomach problems — I hope it’s better now. Innocent Maela is out — it’s not possible he can play.

“Hotto is out. Monyane is out — he had problems with his ankles. Monare is out — he got a kick to the knee. Lorch is out.

“We have a long, long list of players who are out, and it’s not easy to manage this. But we know the situation. We have had the same problems when the players come back from the national team, and now we have to overcome this.

“We have a squad — they have the quality, and we will overcome this and I hope we get a good result in the game tomorrow.”

Zinnbauer said Pirates, top of Group A with four points, expect a tough match against Ahli.

“Benghazi have a good team, especially in offence. They have good offensive players,” Bucs’ coach said.

“They have a good system, a good high pressure, good transition to attack. These are things we have to work on.”

Pirates, the 2015 finalists in the competition, have begun with a 0-0 home draw against Algeria’s ES Setif (played in neutral Ghana due to Covid-19) and 2-1 win away against Enyimba in Nigeria. Ahli (three points) lost 2-1 away against Enyimba and won 1-0 at home to Setif.

This is the first continental club match in 10 years to be played in Libya, where a UN-brokered peace deal has restored calm to the violence-ravaged North Africa country.