Orlando Pirates played a 1-1 draw with a much-improved Tottenham Hotspur side in the second Vodacom Challenge match at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Tuesday night.
The English visitors — with coach Harry Redknapp on the bench for the first time on their South African tour — had been lacklustre in their 1-0 loss to Kaizer Chiefs in Polokwane on Saturday in the opening match of the pre-season tournament.
They took the lead in the 17th minute with a classy free-kick from midfielder Rafael van der Vaart on the edge of the box, easily beating goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa in the Pirates goal.
The Buccaneers — with Brazilian Julio Leal in charge for the first time — went on a late surge to equalise six minutes before the interval through fullback Happy Jele who intercepted Spurs defender Danny Rose to blast in an acute goal from the edge of the box.
Spurs — in what might have been a message to their Luka Luka Modric who is the current talk of a likely high profile move to big spending Chelsea — opted to make the Croatian playmaker captain on the day while regular skipper Michael Dawson started on the bench.
Modric’s place was notable when he didn’t feature on the weekend and was crisp in the 60 minutes he managed on the pitch.
It was the Spurs who started off as if they would score an avalanche of goals against the hosts, with Gareth Bale proving to be a menace on the left flank.
First, Bale skinned Jele and Rooi Mahamutsa in the sixth minute but saw his final shot at an awkward angle go across the face of goal.
Moments later Bale crossed inside and narrowly failed to find striker Jermain Defoe’s foot before going on to force a save from Meyiwa who tipped his free-kick over the post.
Pirates’ first meaningful shot of the half came from midfielder Isaac Chansa who saw his shot sail wide of Brad Friedel’s goal.
Lone striker Bongani Ndulula then fashioned a glancing header in the 42nd minute that went narrowly wide of goal to mark their resurgence.
The home team introduced the wingers Mark Mayambela, Sameegh Doutie and defender Siyabonga Sangweni for the start of the second half in place of Daine Klate, Chansa and Mahamutsam — a move that nearly paid off as they dominated the final 45 minutes.
The lively Mayambela fashioned a shot that went narrowly wide of goal before turning provider for midfielder Oupa Manyisa who was cut off by a well-timed tackle by Dawson in the box as he was about to test Friedel.
Spurs did manage a crafty counter-attack against the run of play with substitute midfielder Niko Kranjcar’s shot being dealt with by an agile Meyiwa in the final quarter of the match.
The next match of the round-robin fixtures sees Pirates play Chiefs at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Thursday evening where the winner will play Spurs in the final on Saturday. — Sapa