Pirates’ profligacy to cost them against resolute Chiefs

So far under new coach, Rhulani Mokwena, Orlando Pirates have been creating a huge amount of shooting opportunities but are struggling to find the back of the net.

Prior to his side’s narrow 1-0 victory away at Highlands Park on Tuesday, Mokwena spoke about his side’s wasteful finishing in front goal. He told SuperSport:

“It’s unbelievable that in the last two matches, we’ve created over 64 chances and we’ve only scored one goal. We continue to work and to look to try to improve and try to make sure that we convert at least half of those chances.”

Of course, the 32-year-old is taking some artistic license with those comments because he is calling every shot his side had a “chance”. In fact, in the football data world, that is how the popular statistic “chances created” is tallied – how many times a player makes a pass to a teammate, who in turn, has a shot at goal. This could be a strike from 40 yards that goes out for a throw-in, or a feather of a header on a corner delivery which goes nowhere near goal.

Despite this slight bending of reality, Mokwena’s side are indeed creating many clear-cut opportunities within their high overall shot totals, but have been struggling to turn that dominance into goals. At some point, an opponent is going to take a pasting when Pirates score early and get the chance to attack opponents who need to open up and leave space.

Pirates face Akpeyi wall

On Saturday, Kaizer Chiefs are not expected to make life easy for Bucs. Ernst Middendorp’s side have been superb at the back this season, partly because of Daniel Akpeyi’s largely excellent form in replacing Itumeleng Khune. When the Nigerian stepped into the side last season after joining as something of a panic buy as the January transfer window came to close, he never looked confident or dependable. This season, he looks at home and Chiefs have barely felt Khune’s absence.

B19I2SM0537 - Pirates’ profligacy to cost them against resolute Chiefs
Daniel Akpeyi of Kaizer Chiefs during the Absa Premiership match between Kaizer Chiefs and Baroka FC on the 28 September 2019 at FNB Stadium Chiefs face Pirates in the TKO this Saturday Pic Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

In defence, Erick Mathoho’s return to fitness has seen Chiefs defend deeper and pass out from the back a lot less frequently. For all the strengths of “Tower”, recovery speed and ball-playing ability are not two of them. He instead heads crosses clear and makes interventions around his own box in a more compact shape. His form has been outstanding.

Young, athletic fullbacks in Yagan Sasman and Njabulo Blom, and the ultra-aggressive Daniel Cardoso are likely to complete the defence. In front that, Willard Katsande and George Maluleka will provide an extra layer of protection, whilst Lebohang Manyama defends resolutely from his position on the left of the diamond.

It won’t be straightforward for Pirates to create good openings in the game. Should Middendorp throw an extra spanner into the works – perhaps a man-marking job on Thembinkosi Lorch – then Pirates will need to be ruthless in taking any chances they get.

Profligacy is defined as “reckless extravagance or wastefulness in the use of resources”. There is now no more room for Pirates to waste chances with their cup hopes and faint PSL title aspirations on the line. How well they finish in the two Soweto derbies in eight days and their clash with Maritzburg United (which is sandwiched in-between) will set the tone for the rest of the season.

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