TEMBISA, January 6 – Highlands Park and Orlando Pirates played to an exciting 2-2 draw in an Absa Premiership match played at the Makhulong Stadium on Saturday night.
Pirates were out of the blocks quickly, with Thembinkosi Lorch setting up Augustine Mulenga early on, but the Zambian forward’s attempt was foiled by a desperate Highlands defence. The Buccaneers continued to pour forward in attack, putting the opposition under tremendous pressure, but just couldn’t find a way through. Vincent Pule also had a great opportunity to score, but was denied by a super save from Highlands goalkeeper Marlon Heugh.
But Highlands were in no way overawed by their opponents and they proceeded to dominate the rest of the first half. Peter Shalulile troubled the Pirates defence and Tendai Ndoro fired a shot wide.
Soon afterwards, it was again Ndoro in the clear, but this time his effort was well saved by the Soweto side’s goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane.
There were more opportunities for Highlands as Shalulile had a shot blocked, Sphiwe Mahlangu shot straight at Mpontshane, and Mlungisi Mbunjana squandered an inviting opportunity. The home side had come to play and they made sure that Pirates knew they were in for a tough fight.
Early on in the second half, Justin Shonga should have given Pirates the lead, but his soft attempt allowed Heugh time to recover and clear the danger.
And, with the Buccaneers wasting that chance, Highlands broke out minutes later to take a 1-0 lead when Ndoro set up Mahlangu to drill a clinical shot into the net.
The lead was short-lived, however, as a minute later – the 60th – Lorch scored for Pirates to level matters at 1-1.
Five minutes later, though, Highlands were back in front when Mahlangu played in Shalulile, who rounded Mpontshane to score.
Desperate to get back on terms, Pirates replaced Shonga with Kudakwashe Mahachi as they looked for an individual to galvanise their attack. The change worked a charm as Mahachi scored with virtually his first touch of the game, levelling matters at 2-2 after steering in an expert left-foot shot into the corner of the net.
With all to play for, both teams tried to make something happen in the closing stages, but it wasn’t to be. In the end, a draw was a fair result as Highlands pushed their more illustrious opponents, Pirates, all the way throughout the 90 minutes. (ANA)