SOWETO, April 1 – A riveting, drama-filled Premiership encounter at the Orlando Stadium on Monday night had everything but goals, as Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns played to a 0-0 draw.
The result moves log-leading Sundowns up to 44 points, three above second-placed Pirates, who went above Bidvest Wits on goal difference.
The game kicked off 20 minutes late as a safety measure against a large number of fans still coming through the gates at the scheduled 7.30pm start. But it was worth the wait – with the packed stands making for an electric atmosphere, both teams went on to dish out some thrilling football in a highly-absorbing 97 minutes of play.
It started with just a minute on the clock when Thapelo Morena was inches away from scoring for Sundowns with a near-post flick from a Tebogo Langerman cross.
Five minutes later and Pirates had the ball in the net after Denis Onyango had fumbled a Thembinkosi Lorch cross, but Lorch’s delivery had gone out of play and the goal was not given.
Even though the game was being played at breakneck speed, there was still a high skill level being exhibited by both sides and more action followed as Hlompho Kekana’s 40-metre pile-driver nearly caught out Bucs keeper Wayne Sandilands, who dropped the ball and was relieved to see it landing on the roof of the net.
More chances followed for the Brazilians as Lebohang Maboe fired over and Emiliano Tade had a free kick saved by Sandilands, while at the other end of the field, Maboe was perhaps lucky to have only been shown yellow after his late tackle on a goal-bound Lorch.
The game continued in the same scintillating fashion up to the break, with Lorch being denied on a further three occasions, while Themba Zwane fired a shot wide for the visitors and Sandilands kept out a testing drive from Tade.
After the restart, there was no let up to the intensity and the purpose shown by all 22 players on the park. However, a succession of fouls and collisions made it a stop-start affair, and Sandilands had to be replaced by Siyabonga Mpontshane on 67 minutes after he had suffered a cut lip and possible concussion following an aerial challenge.
As the contest moved past the 70-minute mark, there was a flurry of chances as Augustine Mulenga had two shots kept out by Onyango, the second a brilliant reflex save, while Mpontshane was able to comfortably get behind another Kekana power strike.
Despite the lack of goals, the roughly 30 000 supporters who had turned out in Orlando were getting great value for their money, and it was edge-of-the-seats-stuff late on as the two sides took turns in launching attacks at each other.
The match remained on a knife-edge as it went into seven minutes of added time, and there were a couple of nearly moments, including a late miss by an exhausted Lorch, before the full-time whistle finally drew the curtain on a thrilling evening’s entertainment.
– African News Agency (ANA)