A 10-man Bucs gave a spirited performance in drawing 2-2 with Angola National League champions, InterClube de Luanda at Johannesburg Stadium at the weekend.
“I am very proud of my boys; they have showed true character playing one man down and leading 2-1 for the better part of the match against the League champions. We gave it our best shot and were just unlucky to concede a penalty in the last three minutes of the game.
“However, I must admit, the Angolans are a fantastic side and highly competitive,” Da Gama told the club’s website.
_quoteThe Bucs mentor gave amongst others Kelebogile Mabe (right back), Mpho Rashete (central midfield) and a number of trialists including Ugandan keeper Samuel Mujabi a run.
Gilbert Mushangazhike and Rudzani Ramudzuli lead the attack in the closely contested affair where the two teams matched each other for physique, skill and pace.
Da Gama’s plans suffered a blow as early as 17th minute when Mushangazhike was red carded for a 50/50 tackle on Nuno and the Angolans capitalised on their numerical advantage and drew first blood nine minutes later through striker Minguito.
The Bucs coach changed plans and unleashed Masehe and Matema in the second half. The new striking partnership responded very well and scored two quick goals in the space of 10 minutes.
Masehe hit a rocket-like shot, giving the opposition keeper no chance to level matters, while the Zimbabwean international headed-in a cross from left back, Isaac Leshabane to put the Buccaneers 2-1 ahead.
Leshabane turned from hero to villain when he pulled Inter’s forward Romi in the box and the referee pointed to the spot and slapped the Alexandra–born defender with a yellow card.
The pocket sized Romi converted from the spot three minutes from time beating on-trial Zimbabwean keeper Washington Arubi, who swapped places with Mujabi at the start of the second half.
“We must also remember that we played the Angolans without our Bafana Bafana and Under-23 internationals as well as the likes of Lucas Thwala, Destin Makita, Bongani Cashibe, Lucky Lekgwathi, Tsietsi Mkhwanazi, Sepeke Manamela, Cavaan Sibeko (all injured), Tonic Chabalala and the youngster Oupa Manyisa also missed the game due to family commitments,” says Da Gama.
“We had to do with what we had and I got the opportunity to have a look at some of my players who are working tirelessly to make the starting line-up. I also got a chance to assess the two goalkeepers, Mujabi and Arubi, and the other trialists.
Inter’s head coach Carlos Hozer said he was impressed with the talent and fighting spirit of Pirates and that the match was worth the trip to South Africa.
“Orlando Pirates have a very good team that managed to match us with pace and physique. I liked your two strikers (Masehe and Matema) a lot as they posses a strong pace and are very aggressive, something that every coach need from his strikers.”
“Although I don’t know the strength of your opposition in South Africa, but I believe you have the potential to be the best in your country. I wish you all the best in your league ambitions,” he added.