Orlando Pirates could only manage a point from Wednesday’s Premiership clash with Royal AM.
Johannesburg — Orlando Pirates failed to tighten their grip on second place in the Premiership as they drew 1-1 with Royal AM on Wednesday.
While the draw wasn’t the ideal result, Pirates remain second in the league with 50 points, two ahead of SuperSport United who had done them a favour by drawing with Stellenbosch FC on Tuesday.
In the bigger picture, the draw stung as they will head into their Soweto derby against arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs in the Nedbank Cup semi-final on Saturday without momentum.
Pirates are eager to beat Chiefs at all costs – not only to put an end to their five-game losing streak in the derby, but also so they can book their spot in the Nedbank Cup final at Loftus on 27 May.
☠️ @orlandopirates Denied Maximum Points by Royal AM
🖥 Read the Match Review 👉🏿 https://t.co/cGthJwsw54
— Orlando Pirates (@orlandopirates) May 3, 2023
And having come into Wednesday’s home game on a six-match winning streak in the league, Pirates duly wore the favourites’ cap against Royal AM who were at the back in action after their loss to Cape Town City at the weekend.
But with Pirates having one eye on the Soweto derby, they made nine changes to the team that beat TS Galaxy in Mbombela last time out, while Relebohile Ratomo made his first start for the team.
The teenager, though, didn’t allow the pressure to weigh him down, unleashing a hard and low shot that came off Elias Pelembe’s boot, resulting in a goal for Pirates.
It was the perfect breakthrough for the Buccaneers who looked to have one foot in the Champions League next season before Royal AM fought back to earn a point.
After losing to City in their last match, Royal AM came into the game in search of vital points that would see them consolidate their spot in the top eight.
But they only got one point. And that must have been disappointing considering they boasted former Pirates captain and legend Happy Jele in their midst.
But the visitors should be pleased they only conceded only one goal during the second half as Pirates should have rendered the game a non-contest by halftime.
In the 17th minute, Deon Hotto shaved the crossbar with a thunderbolt after being put through by Kermit Erasmus as onrushing goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto failed to get to the ball in time.
Pirates should have taken the lead after Mpoto made a poor goal-kick, allowing Ratomo to steal the ball and pass to Fortune Makaringe who found Erasmus in front of goal.
And with no one in goal after a mix-up between Mpoto, Jele and Jabulani Ncobeni, Erasmus had the goal at his mercy, but the latter made a timeless recovery to block Erasmus’ shot off the line.
Mpoto’s butter fingers nearly let him down on several occasions, but Pirates failed to punish the visitors as the two team went into the break deadlocked.
Pirates, though, quickly made their advantage count in the second half as they went ahead through Pelembe’s own goal.
Coach Jose Riveiro made a host of changes in the second half, including introducing in-form Monnapule Saleng, as they wanted to consolidate their lead.
Pirates huffed and puffed in search of a second goal, but it wasn’t to be as Royal AM equalised to earn an invaluable point courtesy of Khethokwakhe Masuku’s injury-time header.
Other scores from Wednesday night’s action.
Sekhukhune United 1-1 TS Galaxy
Maritzburg Utd 2-2 Marumo Gallants FC
Cape Town City FC 0-0 Golden Arrows
Richards Bay 2-3 Chippa United