Aces ready to ‘challenge’ for league after downing Pirates

2014-10-22 11:05

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With another victory under the belt, Mpumalanga Black Aces intend to put up a worthy fight in the race for the Premiership title, goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane has warned.

Mabokgwane was named Man of the Match in his side’s 2-1 win over Orlando Pirates in Nelspruit last night, producing fine saves in the second half to deny Kermit Erasmus and Thabo Qalinge.

“We just play every game the same way. We don’t plan for any team a special way because every game is three points,” Mabokgwane said.

“But the coach (Clive Barker) told us, ‘If you win this game you’re going to go up the log and challenge’. People said he was crazy, but we love the coach, he encourages us and we’re happy to have him.”

Aces stretched their unbeaten run to six straight league matches, climbing from ninth place in the standings to second position, though they remained nine points behind runaway leaders Kaizer Chiefs, while Pirates dropped to third place ahead of the remaining midweek fixtures this evening.

“There’s no pressure for us. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing,” Mabokgwane said.

“A lot of guys are coming into the team – Valery Nahayo came in and did exceptionally well – and this was only my second game for the team (after an injury layoff), so we’re starting to gel. It takes time but we’ll start challenging soon.”

Barker praised his side for another impressive display in a hard-fought contest, as they continued their run of form.

“It was a thrill a minute, a great game. Credit to both teams and to the officials who let it flow,” Barker said.

Pirates coach Vladimir Vermezovic was disappointed to concede an early goal from a set piece, with Collins Mbesuma firing home a header after a free kick.

While Bucs hit back when Lehlohonolo Majoro scored from the penalty spot in the second half, Mabhuti Khenyeza netted the winner from another penalty with 11 minutes remaining in the match.

“Again we made silly mistakes in set pieces. It was the ninth goal we’ve conceded in set pieces (this season) and we’re working on it but something is not working,” Vermezovic said.

“In the first half we were too shy. We weren’t aggressive and we weren’t smart in the middle of the camp. We started the second half much better but it wasn’t good enough.”

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