Bucs Kept at Bay by Usuthu

14 October, 2022

A spirited home performance could not guarantee maximum points for Orlando Pirates, who were held to a 1-1 draw by the visiting AmaZulu in their DStv Premiership fixture played at Orlando Stadium.

In a rare Friday night fixture at the iconic Soweto venue, both sides were eager to return to winning ways, following a string of poor results at each camp.

This was immediately evident through a frantic start to the contest as the hosts got close to opening the scoring as early as the fifth minute when Monnapule Saleng struck the upright from a free-kick just outside the visitors’ penalty area.

Usuthu then responded by pushing forward in a move that was brought to an end by a timely stop by Bucs keeper Richard Ofori, who was one-on-one with striker Lehlohonolo Majoro.

The battle between the two continued in the 15th minute when the former Pirates forward appeared to have gotten the better of the shot-stopper, but he could only direct his shot wide.

The Buccaneers were also probing at the other end, with captain Innocent Maela advancing forward before unleashing a long-range shot, which went over the crossbar.

A defining moment in the contest came at the 30-minute mark when Ofori collided with Majoro while competing for the ball inside the penalty area, and the referee pointed to the spot after the two players had spent a lengthy period receiving treatment.

Siphesihle Maduna was tasked with converting the spot-kick, and made no mistake in placing the ball out of the Bucs shot-stopper’s reach into the back of the net for the game’s opening goal.

Defender Olisa Ndah got close to providing an equaliser as he headed just over the bar from a corner kick four minutes from the break as Pirates camped inside the opposition half after trailing.

The equaliser eventually came moments before the halftime whistle when Fortune Makaringe played a neat through-ball into the path of Kermit Erasmus, whose shot struck the upright before the diving AmaZulu goalkeeper Veli Mothwa unwittingly guided the ball into the net to be credited with an own goal.

The home side made a change as they emerged from the tunnel, with Kabelo Dlamini replacing Ben Motshwari and it almost proved decisive as the new man on the field released Deon Hotto on the left with his first touch, and the Namibian international’s square ball into the box eluded an onrushing Erasmus.

Just before the hour-mark, Pirates were afforded a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 59th minute when defender Ramahlwe Mphahlele handled the ball inside the box, with the referee not hesitating to point to the penalty spot.

Nkosinathi Sibisi was the man entrusted with spot-kick duties, but was denied as Mothwa kept out his low shot at goal.

The remaining half hour was dominated by the hosts, who kept creating chances but were unable to breach the Usuthu shot-stopper’s defences.

Two long-range efforts from Dlamini were kept out, with Erasmus also denied as he fired at goal from just inside the box.

The best of Pirates’ chances in the second half came in injury time when late substitute Kwame Peprah kept the ball alive in a goalmouth scramble, playing it towards Ndah, whose point-blank effort brought out a fine reflex save from Mothwa.

It remained 1-1 as the final whistle sounded, as the Soweto Giants played to their second stalemate in as many games.

Pirates XI: Ofori (Mpontshane 55’), Ndah, Sibisi, Maela, Motshwari (Dlamini 46’), Timm, Shandu (Makaringe 22’), Hotto (Mako 77’), Ndlondlo, Saleng, Erasmus (Peprah 75’).