No goals‚ but this was a good Chiefs-Pirates Soweto derby

Soweto Derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium. Justice Chabalala and Bernard Parker during the game
Picture: Simphiwe Nkwali/Sunday Times

The barbs of the Soweto derby being the draw-by will continue after a 0-0 Absa Premiership stalemate between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates at FNB Stadium on Saturday‚ but they will be grossly unfair.

Football writers are often left trying to dress up a drab game in these high-pressure‚ overhyped affairs. But on this occasion‚ even the viewers and some 70 000 fans in the stadium could not argue that this was a hugely watchable‚ adventurously swashbuckling effort from both teams.

Neither could score. It was all the more the pity. Because this game‚ and these teams‚ and their tirelessly working players‚ deserved one. They deserved a few more too.

The game of chess began in the two coaches’ starting lineups.

Chiefs’ Steve Komphela kept the XI that beat Mamelodi Sundowns 2-1 in Pretoria on Tuesday. He stuck to his three centrebacks in Siyabonga Ngezana‚ Daniel Cardoso and Mulomowandau Mathoho‚ and two wingbacks – Joseph Molangoane and Philani Zulu – who soaked up pressure so effectively against Downs.

Pirates’ Milutin Sredojevic strangely kept big top scorer Thamsanqa Gabuza‚ often a man to score in the derby‚ on the bench. The coach‚ though‚ in his four changes from Wednesday’s 1-1 draw here against Platinum Stars‚ had no shortage of quick‚ small runners who clearly were tasked with troubling Amakhosi’s centrebacks‚ and getting behind the wingbacks.

Justice Chabalala in defence‚ Issa Sarr in midfield and forwards Thabo Rakhale and Thabiso Kutumela came in for Bucs.

It was Pirates’ first half‚ narrowly‚ from when Thabo Qalinge’s skidding shot had to be palmed round by Itumeleng Khune in the fourth minute.

Chiefs then did edge out the first half-hour‚ notably Ngezana heading onto the upright from George Maluleka’s free-kick.

But‚ as much as Amakhosi’s back five initially absorbed pressure‚ their quick recycling of the ball forward shown against Downs was missing on Saturday.

It was Khune unusually slackly allowing a back-header by Molangoane to go for a corner that prompted Bucs piling on the pressure at the end of the half.

Makola’s take from that corner was low to Qalinge on the edge of the area‚ who smacked the best shot of the half to force a save from Khune. Moments later Makola shot into the side-netting.

The Buccaneers could have scored in spectacular fashion opening the second half‚ Makola’s chip in from the left finding Qalinge to beat offside and produce a scissor-kick that skimmed the crossbar.

If the first half had simmered over‚ the second reached boiling point with end to end action that is the sort of football fans come to FNB‚ or tune in on their TVs‚ for.

Chiefs found their attacking stride in the second half.

Siphiwe Tshabalala forced a save from Wayne Sandilands with a shot curled from a narrow angle on the left of the box.

Willard Katsande’s close-range header forced another fine stop from Pirates’ goalkeeper.

Bucs‚ too‚ ranged forward. Substitute Bernard Morrison had the ball in the net form Makola’s ball across goal‚ but was ruled offside. Then the Ghanaian was played down the left and pulled back for Qalinge‚ whose low strike had Khune down to the keeper’s left.

With 10 minutes left Maluleka’s cross floated in from the right found Cardoso‚ who produced a defender’s volley over the crossbar.

The game‚ and the players for their ingenuity‚ industriousness and some uncharacteristically adventurous raiding for a derby‚ deserved a goal. Neither got one.

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