Orlando Pirates suspend coach Leal

Orlando Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza

Former African champions Orlando Pirates have suspended coach Julio Leal 'with immediate effect'.

The Brazil-born coach of the South African side suffered a number of disappointing results recently.

Chairman Irvin Khoza had wanted this year's African Champions League title, to celebrate Pirates' 75th birthday, but the club exited in the first round to Angola's Recreativo do Libolo.

Development director Augusto Palacios will become caretaker coach.

The Johannesburg club made a poor start to their defence of the South African FA Cup in Durban on Saturday, taking 86 minutes to score the only goal of a last-32 tie at fifth-tier Ethekwini Coastal.

Nonetheless, the Brazil-born Leal had won the Top 8 and League Cup titles this season, with third-placed Pirates trailing league leaders Mamelodi Sundowns by just three points with 12 rounds of matches left.

However, the club says it is troubled by a recent performance evaluation session and looking for reasons why "the coach expressed that 'he could not see his way forward'" at this time.

Former South Africa coach Palacios faces a daunting first week with league games away to relegation-threatened Santos on Wednesday and at home to arch rivals Kaizer Chiefs three days later in Soweto.

Pirates are the defending champions, with Leal replacing Dutch coach Ruud Krol, who led one of South Africa's most popular sides to an historic treble last year.