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Did Saleng help Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro dodge a bullet?

22:56 GMT+3 14/01/2023
Monnapule Saleng, Orlando Pirates, October 2022
The Bafana winger proved the difference in a challenging game against Golden Arrows with a goal and an assist in the 3-1 win.

Orlando Pirates forward Monnapule Saleng’s rapid rise to the top has been remarkable to watch this season.

It was Saleng who opened the scoring in the 28th minute when he reacted sharply to clinically flick in a cross from Bandile Shandu at the near post.

Then with the scores locked at 1-1 in the 78th minute, Saleng fired in a superb cross, inviting Terrence Dzvukamanja to head Bucs back in front.

The two moments of magic were the kind of thing we’ve seen regularly from Saleng this season and were crucial in helping Pirates avoid a fourth straight defeat.

Even a draw would have heaped the pressure on head coach Jose Riveiro, whose job might have come on the line had the bad results continued.

Instead the Spaniard should sleep easier on Saturday night, having seen his side score in the second half of a game for the first time this season.
After a very poor run of results, it’s possible the win over Abafana bes’ Thende could be a pivotal point in Bucs’ season.

That it was Man-of-the-Match Saleng who made the difference, is reward for Riveiro and the Pirates technical team for giving the player his chance.

Ahead of this season, not many were expecting much from Saleng after he had managed only two goals in 22 matches on loan at Swallows FC last season.

Especially since Pirates were not short on options in Saleng’s position.

However, the 24-year-old has thrived on the chance given to him and now has six goals and one assist in 11 appearances.

He could be on course to beat his best season tally of 13 goals, which he netted for Free State Stars in 29 first division games earlier in his career.

Now also in the Bafana Bafana setup, it’s been an incredible rise to the summit and without Saleng’s three goals in the MTN8, the Sea Robbers would probably not have won that tournament.

Saleng’s outstanding form has also negated the loss of Thembinkosi Lorch to long-term injury and without him, Bucs’ season could have been in serious trouble.