JOHANNESBURG – Orlando Pirates’ coach Josef Zinnbauer cut a dejected figure after his team’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Swallows FC on Saturday, admitting they’ll have an uphill mountain to climb in their bid to close in on leaders Mamelodi Sundowns.
The Bucs are fourth on the league standings with 39 points, eight behind Sundowns who have two games in hand. However, Pirates had a chance to close that gap to just six points, but they were held by Swallows in the Original Soweto derby away from home.
With a matter of two points dropped, instead of one gained, Pirates will know that they’ve let themselves down. They could, however, still finish in the top-two and qualify for the Caf Champions League next season if they come out guns blazing in their last seven matches.
“We look at game to game, always. It was a good game for us. I think we deserved the three points. But we won’t speak about it, the title or the Champions League spot. It’s still a long way but we still need points for these targets,” said Zinnbauer at the Dobsonville Stadium.
The Birds drew the first blood, courtesy of an own goal by Thulani Hlatshwayo in the first half. But Pirates didn’t drop their heads, substitute Wayde Jooste setting up fellow-sub Tshegofatso Mabasa who equalised for his side with a sublime header.
Unceremoniously this was Swallows FC’s 14th draw in the league this season, after winning eight matches and losing one respectively. They remained fifth on the standings with 38 points, one and nine behind Pirates and champions Sundowns.
Swallows’ FC coach Brandon Truter, who’s come under fire in recent weeks after his team only registered four wins in all competitions this year, suggested they’d be among the pacesetters on the standings hadn’t it been for fatigue and lapse of concentration.
“It’s a tough thing. We have to look at how, when and where it happened. But in the same breath, we are in the critical phase of the season. It’s the time of tired minds. We need to remind ourselves that we played after every four days this past week,” Truter said.