On Sunday the form book was torn up as struggling Black Leopards showed scant respect for an Orlando Pirates team who came into the match at the hot favourites.
CAPE TOWN – To put the scale of this shock result into some sort of context, Black Leopards had only been able to score seven goals in their previous nine Dstv Premiership matches – a sequence that had brought them just six points.
It had Leopards rooted to the bottom of the log with every indication that even at this early stage of the season the Limpopo club would make a hasty return to the backwaters of the GladAfrica Championship from where they barely climbed up from last season.
On Sunday at a drenched Thohoyandou Stadium the form book was torn up though. Leopards showed scant respect for a Pirates team that has already claimed the MTN8 crown this season and have been spoken about as genuine title contenders to Mamelodi Sundowns.
Both teams had made changes to their line-ups with the Buccaneers welcoming back Thulani Hlatshwayo from suspension in defence, while Leopards recalled Wiseman Maluleke, Roderick Kabwe and Tebogo Makobela.
Hlatshwayo was certainly not expecting to have such a busy afternoon with Leopards attacking from the outset. The game was barely two minutes old when Rodney Ramagalela forced a quality save from Pirates goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands with a threatening strike early on.
Leopards continued their assault on the Pirates goal with Hlatshwayo being forced to make a timely interception when the Bafana Bafana stalwart came between Ovidy Karuru and Sandilands to clear the danger.
Pirates’ defence, however, continued to look shaky with Innocent Maela enduring a nervy afternoon at the office. Maela hit the post with one attempted clearing header that led to a Leopards corner.
It was from this resultant set-piece that Leopards claimed the much-deserved lead when Maela headed the ball into his own net after miscommunication inside the Pirates box.
And just to show their own goal was no fluke and that the home side were indeed deserving of their lead, Lidoda Duvha doubled their advantage five minutes before haltime.
Relishing the opportunity to be back in the starting XI, Kabwe finished off a counter-attack with a low strike past Sandilands after Karuru’s impressive flick in the box.
Pirates were unable to find a way back into the contest even after the halftime interval with Leopards determined to hold on for just their second victory of the campaign. They continued to flood the midfield, thereby not giving the dangerous Pirates midfielders any space to weave their usual magic.
Leopards coach Dylan Kerr was immensely proud of his team at the final whistle as the Maltese-born tactician believed that his charges had finally delivered on their true potential.
“It was a complete 90-minute performance. We needed a performance because we were at home. We could have scored more goals because we kept attacking. I’ve been preaching for a full 90 minute performance and the boys showed character,” Kerr said.
“In other games we allowed other teams to dictate. But credit to the players because they dug deep. They need to watch this game again with pride and realise what they can deliver.
Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer, meanwhile, claimed his side did not pitch up at the races.
“We were completely out of it in the first 45 minutes. I don’t know what we were doing. If you’re playing against a relegation team you know they are going to run for their lives. We watched them do it. It’s not a physical thing, but a mental thing,” the German said.