Downs’ last chance

2011-03-12 00:00

AN injury-depleted Mamelodi Sundowns face the task of reversing successive victories against Orlando Pirates in the Buccaneers’ own backyard in tonight’s Nedbank Cup first round encounter at Orlando Stadium.

Pirates, the form team in the Premier Soccer League, where they have embarked on a seemingly unstoppable 16-match unbeaten run, have beaten their billionaire Pretoria neighbours twice in the league this season.

The Buccaneers will be confident of another victory on their home turf against the Brazilians.

Downs have striker Surprise Moriri and right midfielder Elias Pelembe out of action, adding to an injury list that already includes the likes of Lebohang Mokoena, Matthew Booth, Eduardo Ferreira, Franklin Cale, Innocent Mdledle and Richard Henyekane.

Pirates, winners of the MTN8 and very much on course for a first league title in seven years, begin their quest to make it a trophy treble in tonight’s cup tie.

“Every coach wants to win a treble, but it is easier said than done. We are focusing on one game at a time,” Bucs coach Ruud Krol warned.

The 1970s Dutch playing great also cautioned that his side’s two wins over Sundowns, and the Brazilians’ current dire injury status, should not create a sense of overconfidence in his side.

“It is not the same team we faced in the league, never the same players and not the same situation,” Krol said.

“I expect a difficult and exciting match …”

After a rocky start that followed the tumultuous departure of Spaniard Antonio Lopez Habas as Sundowns coach in January, caretaker boss Ian Gorowa has steadied the ship with three successive victories.

The Zimbabwean said Sundowns cannot afford a third successive defeat against Pirates.

“If we had a choice we would have preferred not to face them, but the draw has been done and we just have to. Something has to give in this game and it’s going to be a Sundowns victory,” Gorowa said.

The Brazilians’ mini-revival in the league has seen them leapfrog Kaizer Chiefs into third place, and the Pretoria giants still have an outside chance at the PSL title.

Realistically, though, the Nedbank Cup might be Downs’ last chance at silverware this season.

Downs striker Katlego Mphela was equally anxious. “There is pressure on us because we haven’t won anything in the past three years …” he said.

Pirates have had injury concerns of their own, not least the loss of goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs until perhaps the end of the season. But the Bucs will be buoyed by the return from suspension from their 2-2 league away draw against Bloemfontein Celtic of speedster winger Tlou Segolela.

In other first round matches pitting PSL teams against each other, Free State Stars host Ajax Cape Town at Goble Park in Bethlehem today and Bloemfontein Celtic face Platinum Stars at Seisa Ramabodu Stadium tonight.


Today: Mpumalanga Black Aces v Hanover Park (Puma Rugby Stadium, 3 pm – live on SuperSport 4), Amajuba United Killers FC v Vasco Da Gama (Arbor Park Stadium, 3 pm), Free State Stars v Ajax Cape Town (Goble Park Stadium, 3 pm – live on SABC1), BTX Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers (Griffon Stadium, 3 pm), Bloemfontein Celtic v Platinum Stars (Seisa Ramabodu Stadium, 8.15 pm – live on SABC1), Orlando Pirates v Mamelodi Sundowns (Orlando Stadium, 8.15 pm – live on SuperSport 4)

Tomorrow: United FC v Future Tigers FC (Botshabelo Stadium, 3 pm), Witbank Spurs v Chippa United (Puma Rugby Stadium, 3 pm), Wits University v Santos (Milpark, 3 pm – live on SABC1), Carara Kicks v Cullinan FC Goble Park Stadium, 3 pm), Nathi Lions v Kaizer Chiefs (King Zwelithini Stadium, 3 pm – live on SuperSport 4)

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