30 December, 2022
It was a disappointing return to DStv Premiership action for Orlando Pirates, who suffered a 2-0 defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld in a rare Friday afternoon fixture.
After well over a month without any competitive action, the League returned with a titanic clash between the two Gauteng rivals, who were looking to build early winning momentum ahead of the new year.
The inclement weather in Tshwane prevented a frantic start to the contest as the two teams took time to acclimatise to the wet underfoot conditions.
It took a dead-ball situation for the first shot on target, and it came in the seventh minute through Sundowns’ Marcos Allende who looked to sneak the ball into the near post, but Siyabonga Mpontshane covered plenty of ground to make a fantastic save.
The Buccaneers responded seconds later as Thabiso Monyane combined with Monnapule Saleng, who cut inside from the right before unleashing a powerful shot which drew a fine stop from Ronwen Williams.
Much of the first half was a physical battle, characterised by crunching challenges at both ends, with minimal chances at goal.
The visitors could have made the breakthrough three minutes after the half-hour mark, with Vincent Pule’s ball from a set piece locating Tapelo Xoki inside the box, but the Bucs defender’s header was kept out by another fine save from Williams.
Pirates were made to rue the missed opportunity as Sundowns took the lead four minutes from the break through Mothobi Mvala, who leapt high to head in from a free kick, leaving Mpontshane wrong-footed.
It remained 1-0 at halftime, and it was the home side that took the initiative as they emerged from the tunnel, dominating proceedings in the opening minutes of the second half.
After threatening the Bucs goal a couple of times, they were rewarded in the 63th minute with Cassius Mailula allowed an easy tap-in after collecting a rebound from a Mpontshane save.
Despite their two-goal advantage, the hosts remained on the charge and could have extended their lead even further in the 76th minute when Themba Zwane broke away before being denied by Mpontshane.
With the final whistle approaching, the Buccaneers manufactured opportunities of their own, with second-half subs Zakhele Lepasa and Sandile Mthethwa each missing the target by mere inches.
They could have set up a tense finish deep into injury time when Kermit Erasmus teed up Saleng, whose first-time shot was parried away by Williams.
Sundowns held on well in the end to clinch victory, denying Pirates crucial points in their bid to climb up the table.
Pirates XI: Mpontshane (GK), Xoki, Sibisi (Mthethwa 70’), Monyane (Shandu 56’), Maela, Motshwari, Timm (Monare 70’), Saleng, Hotto (Lepasa 56’), Erasmus, Pule (Dlamini 81’)
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