Home Sport Ten-man Orlando Pirates poach a point from Mamelodi Sundowns

Ten-man Orlando Pirates poach a point from Mamelodi Sundowns

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Tapelo Xoki ensured that the match ended 1-all as Pirates bagged a point against the Brazilians for the first time since the 1-0 win in January 2020.

Thapelo Morena of Mamelodi Sundowns challenged by Monnapule Saleng and Innocent Maela of Orlando Pirates during the DStv Premiership 2023/24 match at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria on 17 February 2024. Picture: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns went on a half-a-season unbeaten run in the DStv Premiership after being held to a 1-1 draw by Orlando Pirates last night.

The Brazilians took the lead first courtesy of Marcelo Allende, lifting the roof of Loftus Versfeld which was sold out to full capacity.

But Tapelo Xoki ensured that the match ended 1-all as Pirates bagged a point against the Brazilians for the first time since the 1-0 win in January 2020.

Despite the match having only two goals, the sold-out crowd were treated to all sorts of thrills and spills post the drama-filled Africa Cup of Nations.

Coach Rhulani Mokwena rested most of his players who were with Bafana at the Afcon, with only Ronwen Williams and Thepelo Morena in the starting Xl.

But Sundowns still held the advantage for coming into this match as they were at the back of an unbeaten run in the league and had last lost to Pirates three years ago.

But with Pirates still hopeful of making a late challenge for the title, they didn’t want to leave any stone unturned as coach Jose Riveiro named his best Xl.

Riveiro’s Xl included only Evidence Makgopa from his four players that represented Bafana at the Afcon, while Nkosinathi Sibisi started from the bench.

Sundowns dominated early proceedings with ball-possession and playing in the pockets as they showed no signs of mostly being a second-string team.

But that start was nearly ruined by the poor start of goalkeeper Williams whose short passes were intercepted by Makgopa and Makhehle Makhula at some point.

It was Makhaula who nearly punished Williams, though, as he intercepted the pass before hitting a thunderbolt straight into the Bafana No 1.

Those blemishes gave Williams a wakeup call as he revived himself with two saves, parrying away Makgopa’s curler before blocking Xoki’s effort.

With Williams back to his old self – reminding the masses why he’s the best goalkeeper in Africa – the Brazilians started to play with more vigour going forward.

That feat also gave Thembinkosi Lorch, who was making his debut against his former club life. Lorch who played in the No 10 role tried to create passes which would break up the Sea Robbers’ wall.

But that didn’t pay any dividends, with Sundowns’ only notable chance coming via Peter Shalulile’s header which sailed inches wide off the target.

And as the heavens opened at half-time, following that lacklustre half, many assumed that was a sign that the scoring gates would open too.

But it wasn’t to be. Instead, Pirates’ problems mounted as Miguel Timm received a second yellow – and a red from referee Thando Ndzandzeka.

Timm and Olisa Ndah hindered Williams from making a goal kick, and Ndzandzeka adjudged for a foul, cautioning Ndah with a yellow card.

But thanks to the petition from Sundowns’ players to have Timm booked as well, Ndzandzeka changed his mind: overturned Ndah’s card and gave it to Timm.

Pirates were nearly dealt with a double dose of disaster as the returning Sipho Chaine needed medical treatment. This was Chaine’s first game from a long injury.

But the Pirates’ goalkeeper was able to get medical treatment and continue with the game. A feat that, nonetheless, couldn’t stop him from conceding.

Allende broke the deadlock for the hosts after controlling well outside the box before hitting a hard and low effort that took a bounce before rolling past Williams.

However, Pirates were back on level terms soon thereafter. Abdelmounaim Boutouil brought down Xoki inside the box after wrapping his hands around him.

The Pirates defender dusted himself off to take the responsibility as he slotted down the middle, leaving Williams with no chance of repeating the Afcon heroics as the game ended 1-1.

@Mihlalibaleka

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