'The league title is not a done deal'

Orlando Pirates coach Ruud Krol and his Moroka Swallows counterpart Zobel Rainer agreed that the Absa Premiership race is not over until the end of what they termed “the crazy month” of December.

Speaking after the Soweto rivals had drawn 2-2 at a
rain-soaked Orlando Stadium on Saturday night, German born Rainer and Bucs former Dutch national captain Krol said they were bracing themselves to play another six league fixtures before December 20 when the Premier Soccer League closes for the Christmas recess.

Zobel said that although defending champions SuperSport United looked to be runaway leaders, “the league title is not a done deal”.

“Who knows? SuperSport could hit a bad spot and suffer injuries during the next crazy month of soccer. Anything could happen when teams play like this.”

But Krol accepted his side had a mountain to climb to catch SuperSport.

“We are nine points behind them and that’s a lot. Had we beaten Swallows we would have closed that gap to seven which would have made our job easier.
But we are ready to keep fighting and pushing for points.”
The PSL have agreed to finish the league season by February 28 to help Bafana Bafana prepare for the Soccer World Cup finals. The league have also agreed to have a complete break during January so that PSL-based Bafana players can attend a camp as part of their preparations.

The PSL clubs face six matches before December 20 and will play their remaining four fixtures in February.

However, newly appointed national head coach Carlos Alberto Parreira is said not to be keen on the camp.

He may decide on a two week camp instead or scrap the camp completely, which means the PSL players and coaches will be put through the wringer for nothing during December.

Zobel, the former Bayern Munich star, knew what he was heading into when he took charge of the Birds at the start of the season but still finds the going tough on his players and technical staff.

“I have never seen anything like this anywhere in the world. The next six games are going to be tough. It means rotating players and hoping that you do not pick up any serious or even niggling

Zobel was happy with his one point from the game against Bucs.

“Pirates are a good team. They kept pressurising us and we broke. To me a draw was a fair result. But my striker Radebe should have won it for us in injury time but the Pirates keeper did well to save the shot—but I felt that should have been the winner for us.

“On the other hand, we were lucky to have led 1-0 at halftime.”

Zobel said he was expecting another tough 90 minutes when the Birds entertain Free State Stars at Dobsonville on Wednesday. Stars drew 2-2 at home to big spending Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday.

Krol said he would not be changing much when they face bottom-of-the-log Jomo Cosmos at the Rand Stadium on Wednesday night.

He was impressed by Pirates’ fightback against Swallows clawing back from 2-0 down to snatch a late equaliser through Rooi Mahamutsa.

“No game is easy, especially at this time of the season. We made a bad mistake early in the first half and were punished but after that we could have scored four or five but somehow their keeper and defence kept the ball out.

“When we went 2-0 down, I changed things and brought on fresh legs and it worked.”

Shaun Haschick scored both goals for Birds with Phenyo Mongala netting the other goal for Pirates.

Zobel said that he had picked up a major problem at Swallows.

“We struggle to beat smaller teams yet manage to raise our game for the bigger clubs like Pirates. That is because the players do not concentrate as hard against the smaller clubs. I know this from
my playing days [at Bayern]. It is something the Swallows players need to learn to do and fast and that is to focus for 90 minutes at every match.” - Sapa

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