POLOKWANE (South Africa): New signing Carlos Tevez watched from the sideline as Manchester City lost 2-0 to Orlando Pirates on Saturday in the opening Vodacom Challenge tournament match.
City manager Mark Hughes said it was “too dangerous” to field Argentine Tevez and another close-season striking purchase Paraguayan Roque Santa Cruz in this northern city as they lacked match fitness.
Former Manchester United striker Hughes, under pressure to break into the English Premiership’s “big four” after a close season spending spree that also netted England midfielder Gareth Barry, offered no excuses for the loss.
“It was a good workout against a Pirates team that played very well. I was pleased with the day, but not the result,” he admitted after a goal in each half gave the “Buccaneers” a deserved victory before 20,000 spectators.
“We are in the conditioning phase of pre-season preparations and today you could see that the players are at different levels. A few more games and they will all be up to speed.
“Carlos (Tevez) and Roque (Santa Cruz) were not considered for this match as it would have been too dangerous given their level of pre-season fitness,” stressed Hughes.
Pirates coach and former Holland World Cup star Ruud Krol had sympathy for City: “They have just travelled from Dubai and this does not make it easy. Believe me, City are a good team.”
The English Premiership outfit lacked at least half their likely first choice line-up and were under pressure from the kick-off with goalkeeper Stuart Taylor forced into a low save just 14 seconds after the kick-off.
Lucas Thwala put Pirates ahead on 36 minutes from the penalty spot after Ben Mee was guilty of shirt tugging and City had Craig Bellamy and Martin Petrov booked during an opening half in which they wasted several scoring chances.
Botswana midfielder Phenyo Mongala added a second goal on 56 minutes as his cross flew over Taylor into the far corner of the net and although City made a number of substitutions they never threatened to wrest the initiative.
City face Kaizer Chiefs tomorrow in the Indian Ocean city of Durban before meeting the winners of a play-off between the South African clubs in the Pretoria final next Saturday. — AFP