1 October, 2022
Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns provided a tense encounter, which finished in a goalless draw at Orlando Stadium on Saturday, as the two sides head into the second leg of their MTN 8 semifinal tie separated by nothing.
Debuts were handed out to attacking midfielders Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo and Monnapule Saleng, while striker Kermit Erasmus started from the bench on his first game back as a Buccaneer.
It was the men at the back who were heavily involved early in the encounter, with Innocent Maela and Olisa Ndah getting touches in defence as Sundowns managed to push forward without breaching the home side’s back three.
The opening 10 minutes went by without much in the way of goalmouth action and that was before the game’s first real opportunity thus far, which fell to Saleng, whose ball from a dead-ball situation evaded Ronwen Williams before crashing into the crossbar in the 12th minute.
This signalled the start of a promising period for the Buccaneers, who were growing into the game, finding their first shot on target just moments later through another debutant in Ndlondlo, who tried his luck from well out, but could not put enough power behind the ball to trouble the Sundowns shot-stopper.
They remained deep inside the visitors’ territory, where Saleng’s attempted cross from the left could not elude Williams after being played in by Miguel Timm just before the 20-minute mark. This was before Sundowns found a half-chance of their own through Themba Zwane, who found himself in enough space to volley from inside the box, only to direct his shot wide.
Right on the half-hour mark, the hosts had another opportunity after retaining the ball from a set-piece situation, with Nkosinathi Sibisi almost sneaking in from the far post to head past Williams.
Neo Maema almost sent Sundowns into the lead heading into the tunnel when he found space on his flank, but his shot was well off target.
It was Pirates who had the first real chance of the second half, and it fell to Zakhele Lepasa, who met a long ball from Sibisi delivered down the middle which resulted in a one-on-one situation between himself and Williams, but it was the Sundowns goalkeeper who came out tops as he parried the ball into safety.
Changes were made by the Bucs bench after the hour mark, with Erasmus making his second Pirates debut right before Thabiso Monyane and Vincent Pule both made a return from injury.
The trio could have had an immediate impact, with Monyane combining with Pule in the 74th minute but the cross from the latter, which was intended for Erasmus, was cleared out for a corner.
With the result all but confirmed, the Bucs striker could have re-introduced himself to the Bucs faithful in style with a smart turn from long range, where he went for goal before his shot was finger-tipped over the crossbar.
A last-gasp opportunity saw Pule flick his header well wide after being located by Goodman Mosele from the left, and that turned out to be the last real chance from either side as the two teams now head into the second leg at Peter Mokaba Stadium with all to play for in the contest for a place in the final.
Pirates XI: Ofori, Ndah, Sibisi, Maela, Mosele, Timm, Shandu (Monyane 73’), Hotto, Saleng (Pule 73’), Ndlondlo, Lepasa (Erasmus 63’).