Pirates got off to a decent start here yesterday and were deservedly in the lead by two goals – the first an own-goal from Lucky Mohomi and the second a solo effort from Luvuyo Memela – going into the break.
It’s their second-half performance that will worry Tinkler if they are to complete the job and clinch the cup at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on May 28.
It hasn’t been easy for Pirates over the last couple of weeks, coming into this encounter on the back of a four-game winless run in the Premier League that now sees them desperate for victory in their last match of the 2015/16 campaign to guarantee their place in the top eight.
This is why Tinkler’s future is uncertain as he faces the humility of being the first coach at the club to finish outside the top eight bracket in the Premier League era.
While their first half display was proof of the quality in the side, Free State Stars bullied them in the second, although the home side failed to take their chances and only pulled a goal back through Ayanda Nkosi before Memela struck again with just five minutes on the clock to put the game to bed.
Then substitute Thamsanqa Gabuza ended his goal-scoring drought by adding a fourth with the clash all but done and dusted. Mohomi finally got the ball into the right net this time, but it was too little too late to rescue a tie that they were in control off earlier in the second half.
Tinkler has a team that has underachieved this season. A lot of the blame has been put on the doorstep of their impressive run in last year’s CAF Confederation Cup, where they lost on aggregate to Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel in November.
A win on May 28 throws them back into that tournament next year, but there can’t be excuses.
And they could have won by a cricket score here, with Stars losing the plot after their coach Giovanni Solinas was sent to the stands by referee Philip Tinyani while the scoreline was still 2-1.
Stars will be disappointed they were made to look like pedestrians judging by the number of goals they conceded, but their road to the final has definitely made them the team to watch next season – Solinas’ first full season with the club.
As far as Tinkler is concerned, the jury is still out, but his men did him a huge favour in wet and cold conditions in Bethlehem.
Free State Stars . . . . . . (0) 2
Nkosi 55, Mohomi 90+
Orlando Pirates . . . . . (2) 4
Mohomi 24 (og), Memela 38, 85, Gabuza 90
Original source: Pirates’ Cup dreams live on