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Orlando Pirates

Five Factors In Bucs' Defeat To Highlands

On Saturday, Orlando Pirates lost a third consecutive match in all competitions as they crashed out of the MTN8 Cup to Highlands Park. The stats show key areas where Pirates lost the game. 

Man-Marking By Da Gama

A key tactical factor in the defeat was how well Owen Da Gama’s men executed their strategy of man-marking Pirates all over the pitch. With Bucs looking to play out from the back, there was hardly ever a spare man and even if Pirates used positional switching, Highlands Park still tracked their man. To overcome that, a greater focus on dribbling was needed to eliminate an opponent and force other players to leave the man they were marking. 

Read: Rollercoaster As Mokwena Steps Into Pirates Hot Seat 


Bucs managed a paltry eight shots at goal in the entire game, with only one shot hitting the target. They also managed only one attempt on target (from nine attempts) in the 3-0 defeat to SuperSport United in midweek and have now gone three matches without scoring across three different competitions. Highlands Park had 12 shots despite being away from home.

Last season, Pirates were averaging 13.4 shots per game in the PSL with 35.1% hitting the target, so their numbers dropped a lot in this match.  


Pirates took on their opponent in a one-versus-one dribble on only five occasions against Highlands Park. Vincent Pule and Augustine Mulenga did not attempt to beat an opponent on a single occasion. Even in the 3-0 midweek defeat, Pirates had 15 dribbles. As mentioned, this would have been the best way to bypass man-marking.  

Listen: RADIO: Billiat's Agent: 'It's Up To Khama To Decide'

Tackles And Duels

Pirates won only two tackles in the game. They had 13 tackles won against each of SuperSport United and in their opening PSL game against Bloemfontein Celtic.

In the aerial duels, Pirates won 13 of the challenges in the air, but lost 17 to Highlands Park.

Late Changes

Considering Highlands Park made three enforced changes and could not alter their approach with substitutions of their own choice, Pirates acted late to try to turn the game. By the 76th minute mark, Rhulani Mokwena had not made any adjustments and he had only made one change by the 87th minute before Kabelo Dlamini and Tshegofatso Mabasa were given only the final few moments.

What should Rhulani Mokwena change for Tuesday’s PSL match against AmaZulu? Let us know by commenting below! 


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