ORLANDO Pirates’ coach Josef Zinnbauer is delighted to have a fully fit Gabadinho Mhango back at his disposal after the marksman returned to the starting line-up and score sheet against Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila.
Pirates struggled in their first two league matches of the New Year, losing to rivals Mamelodi Sundowns, the champions and log leaders, and drawing with Swallows FC in the “Original Soweto derby” at home on Sunday.
Those two underwhelming results ensured that they dropped to sixth on the standings – 10 points behind Sundowns – and they needed a convincing outing against TTM at the Thohoyandou Stadium on Wednesday night as they searched for their first win of the year.
Zinnbauer got what he ordered, his troops hammering the rookies 3-0 in their own backyard. The German’s masterstroke in his gameplan was sending out a potent striking contingent, which included Mhango and Vincent Pule, who was returning from a suspension.
Pule assisted Deon Hotto for the Bucs’ opener. From thereon, the league and team’s top goalscorer from last season – with 14 goals – joined in on the party. Mhango scored his team’s second before the interval after a nice through ball from Thembinkosi Lorch.
“Yes. But you know that Gaba in the first weeks of the season, he was injured. And we know that it’s not easy to (instantly) come back from a muscle injury,” said Zinnbauer, who had to throw fringe players , Zakhele Lepasa and Tshegofatso Mabasa – in the deep end earlier this season.
“The team was in and they were good. Lepasa and Mabasa scored and assisted in the games they played in. So it was not easy for the striker to just come back in. And now he’s coming closer and closer (to getting his confidence back). We can feel that at training and in matches.”
The German coach, who played a significant role in Mhango’s scoring spree last season, hopes that the Malawian is finding his rhythm again.
Pirates, though, are not short of options in their striking contingent. Strikers Austin Muwowo and Jean-Marc Makusu are yet to be given a fair run since arriving at the club with high expectations.
But overall, the Pirates coach was also happy with his forwards against TTM, especially after Fortune Makaringe got his team’s third with a perfectly executed effort from just outside the box after another assist from Lorch in the second half.
“I am happy that Gaba scored. For him, maybe the confidence has come back, also. Fortune also scored. And that’s good for us when Fortune, who’s an offensive midfielder, scores. It’s important for us when strikers and midfielders get self confidence and score,” he said.
The Buccaneers will return to the scorching heat of Venda on Sunday when they visit bottom side Black Leopards. And having capitalised on their chances on Wednesday, the 50-year-old coach is expecting nothing less from his troops against Lidoda Duvha.
“I know we had the game in the hand. We dominated and led the game. But as a coach, when there are opportunities for the team to score, then we have to score,” said Zinnbauer, who’ll be looking for his third successive win over Dylan Kerr’s Leopards.