JOHANNESBURG – It’s early days but whatever Josef Zinnbauer is cooking with this Orlando Pirates team has the smell of a winning formula. That the German has guided the Sea Robbers to 13 points out of 15 since taking over the reins should be enough to shut his detractors, who were bemused by his appointment early in December.
Against Highlands Park at Orlando Stadium on Saturday, the Buccaneers posed the same demeanour that’s embodied with confidence and zest having propelled them to dominate all the first halves and got something out of the game in the last four outings.
And that’s why it was no surprise that the home side took a healthy 3-0 to the recess, further punishing a Highlands Park defence that had already leaked seven goals in the last two matches – against Kaizer Chiefs and Stellenbosch FC.
Pirates’ floodgates were opened by Footballer of the Season, Thembinkosi Lorch. Against the run, the Bafana Bafana international raced his way into Highlands’ box, connecting well with a long-ball that was lobbed by Happy Jele before guiding his strike past Kyle Peters.
This opener was Lorch’s first contribution to the team this season. However, it carried enough weight to further fuel that his revival under Zinnbauer could be closer.
But while Lorch is only catching the wind of Zinnbauer’s philosophy now, there’s few that have already blossomed under the German, notably Gabadinho Mhango.
So much that the Malawian international’s resurgence continued here tonight – scoring his 12th of the season and sixth in 2020 from just four matches.
Mhango’s goal here was typical striker’s goal, capitalising on the Lions of the North’s erratic mistake defensive as he kept his composure, forced Peters to commit before slotting into an empty net.
From thereon, Highlands threw more bodies into the Buccaneers’ final third in search of a consolation heading into the recess but some decisive punches from goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands from set-pieces couldn’t give the visitors the breakthrough.
Instead, the Pirates’ flipped the script and put the game beyond reach for the Lions of the North on the stroke of half-time. Paseka Mako collected the ball from the touchline, raced his way into Highlands’ defensive line before unleashing a grass-cutter with his weaker right-foot past Peters.
While they’ve somewhat posed a nonchalance habit of putting the foot off the pedal in the second half in the last four matches, Pirates’ just had enough gas in their tank to carry throughout the game here.
Such that they could have increased their lead early in the stanza hadn’t Peters pulled off a decisive save from a pinpoint Fortune Makaringe header after being teed up by a dipping Luvuyo Memela set-piece in the 47th minute.
Pirates had enough character so much that with every foray into the Highlands box, it just appeared as though they would score – especially with talismen Mhango and Lorch searching for their respective braces.
However, after a double save in the 75th minute, it would take a long-range effort from substitute Mlungisi Mbunjana to beat Wayne Sandilands and get the Lions of the North’s consolation.
Nonetheless, it’s so far so good for Zinnnabauer, who’s yet to taste defeat in his first five matches in charge of Pirates.