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10 May 2008 18:27
Who said seven is a lucky number? Not Orlando Pirates, that’s for sure.
In a derby encounter of much action and excitement for the near-capacity 40 000 crowd at Mmabatho Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the Buccaneers lost 1-0 against Kaizer Chiefs and extended to seven the number games they have gone without a victory against their tradition-steeped rivals, while also recording their seventh Absa Premiership game in which they have failed to secure a single win.
And, to rub salt into the wounds that have now virtually assured the declining Pirates will miss out on a place in next season’s Top Eight competition, the Buccaneers finished the game with 10 men after a frustrated Mlungisi Gumbi was shown a red card in the 84th minute for a second bookable offence.
For Chiefs, in contrast, the victory that came from a sparkling 37th-minute goal from David Mathebula, who was ably assisted by a pin-point pass from the foraging Shaun Bartlett, revives Amakhosi’s prospects of making the Top Eight and avoiding the humiliation of failing to qualify for this particular competition for the second successive season.
And yet, a measure of sympathy for the dispirited Buccaneers seemed in order after they had overrun their opponents for the opening 30 minutes, enjoyed a territorial advantage overall for 90 minutes and had more shots at goal.
But what Pirates appeared to lack in contrast to Chiefs was a measure of self-belief, with their players looking shell-shocked whenever they moved into inviting scoring positions.
Pirates were unlucky when playmaker Teko Modise was roughed up on the edge of the Chiefs penalty midway through the second period, with referee Charl Theron not as much as awarding a free-kick.
Pirates also had the ball in the net in the closing minutes, but valiant Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune appeared to have been fouled before dropping the ball.
Despite their relatively modest ratings in the Premiership this season, both teams rose to the occasion in a contest that had the huge crowd on tenterhooks until the final whistle.
But why most other Premiership games—even including fixtures involving the top teams—are played in front of near-empty stadiums is as strange as the curious grandstands at the Mmabatho Stadium, which have much of the seating facing away from the pitch.—Sapa
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