Pirates hope to increase lead

Paul Dolezar © Backpagepix
Absa Premiership log leaders Orlando Pirates are hoping to add more misery to Mpumalanga Black Aces’ woes.

Aces will host Pirates in a top-versus-bottom clash at Mbombela Stadium on Sunday. Kick off at 3:30pm.

Bottom of the table, Aces go into this clash on a back of a 3-1 loss to Platinum Stars on Wednesday, while top-of-the-log Pirates kept their Absa Premiership title hopes alive with a 2-0 victory over Vasco da Gama.

“In our match against Platinum Stars, we lost the mentality and strength that saw us beating SuperSport United 2-1 a fortnight ago,” said coach Paul Dolezar.

“We came back strongly in the second half created some opportunities where I believe we should have wrapped the game but failed to capitalise.

“I thought we were the better team in the second half but having gone to the break 2-0 down it became difficult for us to come back.

“To add salt into our wounds, Thabang Rooi was red carded in the first half and we had to play the entire match with ten men.

“We have to take every game as it comes. What went wrong in the past must come right and we are beginning to gel as a team with a group of players that has come on board.

“We are expecting war from Pirates. It is logic that they will be coming to us still licking wounds that Aces inflicted their first pain of defeat this season and at the same time looking to intensify their top spot on the Absa Premiership table.

“Time is running out and we need to do our utmost best to intensify our hopes of moving out of relegation.”

Dolezar said all the players know what is expected of them: “We are fighting for our lives and we all know we have to start winning our games, especially when playing at home. If we don’t collect points at home, it will put us under pressure to do likewise when playing away.

He added, “There is light at the end of the tunnel for Mpumalanga Black Aces as long as all the players can be committed.

“There is no need to panic, because with 12 games remaining there are still a lot of points to play for,” concluded the coach.

Indeed, Aces need a win to keep up their hopes of moving out of the relegation quagmire but they will be up against an uncompromising Pirates team.

On being on top of the table for three weeks, Pirates' captain Lucky Lekgwathi admitted that what goes up can come down.

“There is still a long way, what is important is to avoid the temptations of being carried away,” he explained.

“It’s not going to be easy to remain at the top, but we have a good squad which is strong enough to do that.

“Even with injuries and suspensions in the team, we managed to improve with each and every game and players who came in for those who were out for different reasons have proved themselves that they are Pirates material and were signed on merit.”

The defender added, “I’m also happy that our strikers are also starting to score goals, and on that note credit should go to the technical staff for a job well done.”

Lekgwathi said the mood in the camp was upbeat but they have to be very careful against Aces on Sunday.

“They beat us 1-0 in the first round, and now that they have signed a number of experienced players they will be coming to us with their guns blazing and hoping to spoil our party and we should not allow that to happen.”