Pirates head to Port Elizabeth to take on Maritzburg at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday, with the chance to draw level with Chiefs at the top of the PSL
The Buccaneers trail their Soweto rivals by three points as they seek to make it a hat-trick of Absa Premiership titles, but will be wary of a Maritzburg side who are looking to bounce back from successive defeats.
Pirates let a second-half lead slip in the Soweto Derby on Saturday to draw 1-1, but key midfielder Sifiso Myeni says they have put that disappointment behind them.
“We have forgotten about the draw against Chiefs. It is back to business for us as we prepare for the match against Maritzburg. They are a tough side and I think we will need to be at our best to defeat them,” Myeni says.
“We are desperate to win this match so that we can continue closing the gap at the top. The second round will be a sprint for all 16 teams in the Premier Soccer League, so we cannot afford to let these three points pass us.”
Myeni adds that he has not been happy with his recent performances and is hoping to contribute more in this game.
“I personally have told myself that I have to do better in this match – I am not under any pressure but I feel I can contribute a lot better than I did last weekend in the derby,” he said.
Maritzburg must do without suspended stars Mohamed Awal for the match, the Ghanaian leaving a big hole in their defence.
Coach Ernst Middendorp says sloppiness in possession has been his side’s biggest problem in their consecutive defeats to Platinum Stars and Ajax Cape Town, both by 1-0 margins.
“Our biggest problem in the last two games has been keeping the ball up front, for two, three seconds," Middendorp says. “We have to work on it, we have a small squad and we have had to rely on a player like Cuthbert Malajila a lot. A player like [injured striker] Orlando Smeekes would be useful at the moment. If you have such a big chance delivered near the end of the game to make it 1-1, you should take it.
“We have to work to get our sharpness going forward in the transition. In the past we had one or two chances before half time and we took these chances quite successfully. We will look at three or four points out of the next two games, then the break.”After Pirates, Maritzburg return to the Harry Gwala Stadium to face University of Pretoria, in their final match of 2012.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Pirates extended their unbeaten run to eight games – but played to a second successive draw – when they and derby rivals Kaizer Chiefs played to a 1-1 score line.
- The Soweto giants have a fine away record this season, with four victories and just one defeat from seven matches.
- In head-to-head stats, Maritzburg and Pirates have met in 12 league matches since 2005/06. The Buccaneers have claimed seven wins compared to three for the Team of Choice, while just two matches have been drawn.
- The record is dead even between the teams when it comes to home matches for Maritzburg: each has three wins, each has scored eight goals.
- Last season the KwaZulu-Natal team won their home match 2-1, but the return game in Soweto was edged 1-0 by Bucs.