Pirates U18 Advance to Engen KO Semis

Orlando Pirates Under-18 booked a spot in the semifinals of the 2023 Engen Knockout Challenge after beating their SuperSport United counterparts in an intense penalty shootout that decided their quarterfinal clash on Saturday.

Returning to Marks Park for the second day of the competition after finishing the opening day unbeaten, the young Buccaneers had begun the day with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over School of Excellence to finish top of Group B. 

They were pitted against the Tshwane outfit in the Last Eight in what was one of the most highly-anticipated fixtures of the afternoon.

Pirates however did not have the desired start to the contest, conceding inside the opening five minutes when United made the most of the game’s first set piece as the ball was defl ected into the back of the net for the opener.

This prompted a valiant fight from the Soweto Giants, who came face-to-face with a resolute defence, which kept them out of the attacking third. 

The standoff continued until seven minutes from the break when Pirates were awarded a free kick right by the touchline on the left side of the field. Skipper Jabulani Mokone stepped up to take the set piece, going direct and curling the ball inside the far post to draw level.

The visitors attempted to hit back late in the first half, with Bucs keeper Khumoetsile Rathokolo producing a fine save to ensure that the two sides went into the break still level.

The second period produced very few clear-cut chances, with Pirates midfielder Reabetswe Phaahla getting the closest to affecting the scoreline with a firm shot, which forced a save out of the United keeper.

Neither side could take the lead as the clock wound down, despite a determined effort from each camp, and this meant that the outcome would be decided by penalties. 

A nervy shootout ensued, with United recovering from two early misses to draw level at 2-2 before Bucs striker Siyabonga Ngwenya showed nerves of steel as he stepped up for the all-important last kick, making no mistake in slotting home to send his side to the last four of the competition.

Pirates next face off against Mamelodi Sundowns in their semifinal which takes place on Field A, kicking off at 11:45.

 

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