Orlando Pirates coach Rhulani Mokwena lauded his players despite their Telkom Knockout elimination as he compared the team’s performance to the famous Mona Lisa painting.
Pirates were dumped out of the league cup at the quarterfinal stage following a penalty shootout defeat to rivals Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday.
The Buccaneers showed signs of life as they took the game to Chiefs, scoring first before also grabbing an extra-time equaliser despite their one-man disadvantage.
Mokwena felt the sending off of Mthokozisi Dube directly led to Amakhosi scoring the equaliser before ultimately maintaining pressure to earn a penalty in extra-time.
“The moment we got the red card, we tried to reshuffle because the key to Chiefs is their wing-play and the fullbacks coming into zone-two to deliver balls into the box,” explained Mokwena.
“When we don’t have Dube, you’re saying to [Yagan] Sasman, ‘Climb a little bit more and deliver balls in.’ Then there’s possibilities for Khama to peel behind into the dead zone.
“While we were still trying to reshuffle our defensive structure so that we’ve still got some balance offensively, we conceded the equaliser.
“From then on it became very difficult because they went on to get a penalty after they put a bit of sustained pressure, which is normal when you are one man down.”
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However, Mokwena emphasised that the character and resilience shown by his charges earned his utmost respect and adulation.
“But [it was] a gallant performance. I was saying outside, in certain moments I felt like I was Pablo Picasso, admiring the Mona Lisa painting because you just cannot – when you love football – help but admire the Orlando Pirates players.
“They were unbelievable today, they fought hard, especially when they were one man short – you couldn’t see. You could see with the pressure [from Chiefs], but with regards to how they covered the pitch; galvanised and motivated each other – they were colossal; they were beasts.
“And I must tell you, I’ve got a lot of years of coaching ahead of me, but I can tell you this much: those Orlando Pirates players have got a new family member in me, because they’re prepared to look after my back, and this is what humbles me.”