Fired-up Buccaneers held by Sundowns

Orlando Pirates missed the opportunity to leapfrog Mamelodi Sundowns into first place on the log after the two played out an entertaining stalemate on Monday evening. The Brazillians will be the happier outfit after regular spells under the cosh in Orlando Stadium.

There was no shortage of fanfare leading up to this one and the top-of-the-table clash was billed as an opportunity to shake up the title race. At the end it was as you were — Pitso Mosimane doing his best to frustrate the home side and ensuring they didn’t gain the advantage in the final dash to the finish.

Yet it was the visitors that first showed their intent. Tebogo Langerman tore down the left flank within the opening 30 seconds — leaving his marker flailing in his wake — before sending an inswinger into the box. Thapelo Morena made contact but arrived at pace and couldn’t guide his effort on target.

It was the sting the Buccaneers needed and they were to take control of the game from that point. By the fifth minute Thembinkosi Lorch had the ball in the back of the net — his cross was bungled in by Denis Onyango only for the keeper to have his blushes saved by the flag for out-of-bounds. Replays suggest Pirates got a bit unlucky as the ball seemed to never fully cross the byline.

Standard work by the men in sticks would define the rest of the half. Wayne Sandilands made a meal out of two long range efforts, albeit one of them a trademark Hlompho Kekane dipper. Onyango meanwhile was on hand to swat away the tame shots that breached his backline. Lots of pressure from the home side but they couldn’t add any significant pace or direction to their potshots.

The second half started a lot slower than the first. Milutin Sredojević had to stew in his frustration for at least 20 minutes before his players recaptured their forward drive.

Augustine Mulenga had the best opportunity to turn that momentum into a goal. After a superb floating cross by Lorch, and equally adept control by Mulenga to take out two Masandawana defenders, the Zambian couldn’t find a way past the massive frame of Onyango who this time deserved full credit for maintaining parity.

From there the game developed into a fun back-and-forth as Pirates pushed and their opponents looked to punish on the counter. Neither could produce anything clear-cut and the heavily added-on time eventually ran out.

Not the worst 0-0 you could watch but still a bit of an anticlimax after the prolonged build-up ahead of this one.

Mosimane won’t mind. His side sit three clear with six games to go.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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