JOHANNESBURG, February 9 – It wasn’t a classic, but a highly absorbing 90 minutes of league action at a packed FNB Stadium on Saturday afternoon saw Orlando Pirates coming from behind to grab a 1-1 draw against Kaizer Chiefs.
A Daniel Cardoso penalty early in the second half had seemed set to break Chiefs’ 11-match winless run against their Soweto rivals, only for Thembinkosi Lorch to snatch a very well-taken 79th-minute equaliser.
The draw, a fair reflection of an evenly-contested battle which lacked quality in the final third at both ends of the field, means Bucs remain four points behind league leaders Bidvest Wits, who lost to Highlands Park. Chiefs are five points further back, and with Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City also in the mix, any hopes of challenging for league honours seem to have been ended.
The first half provided some high-tempo, full-blooded action, but although both teams showed good attacking intent, clear-cut chances were at a premium.
After Khama Billiat drew a near-post save from a tight angle from Wayne Sandilands after two minutes, Bucs created probably their best opening of the first 45 minutes when Lorch played in Ben Motshwari. But he took a moment too long to pull the trigger, which allowed Chiefs defender Teenage Hadebe to make an excellent block.
At the other end, Bernard Parker came close when he beat Sandilands to the ball and tried to steer in a header from a very acute angle, but it went wide.
Sandilands took a knock to his head in the process, and Chiefs tried to capitalise as Parker lashed in a long-range shot soon after, the goalkeeper looking uncertain as he parried the ball towards Billiat, who missed with an overhead attempt.
Billiat was his usual lively self, trying to make things happen up front, and he had what looked a decent call for a penalty turned down after being taken out by a studs-up challenge from Alfred Ndengane midway through the first stanza.
That however proved to be the last real goalmouth action of the half as the two sides cancelled each other out in a tightly-fought encounter.
The Glamour Boys signalled their intent five minutes after the restart when Parker fired a half-volley marginally over the goal post.
And soon after that, the complexion of the game was changed when Asavela Mbekile tugged at Billiat just inside the box and referee Abongile Tom pointed to the spot, leaving Cardoso to coolly put Chiefs ahead in the 53rd minute with a clinical penalty.
The Buccaneers responded with a couple of half chances, but by the time Chiefs debutant, Daniel Akpeyi easily plucked Justin Shonga’s tame header out of the air in the 70th minute it was Pirates’ first attempt on target.
Pirates kept on probing for openings through, and with 11 minutes to go of regulation time, Motshwari played in Lorch with a delightful ball, the latter showing wonderful composure to go around Akpeyi before slotting the ball home.
Billiat could have won it right at the death for Ernst Middendorp’s side, but he lacked conviction and Sandilands made an excellent stop to ensure the point.
– African News Agency (ANA)