'Downs, Pirates in stalemate
Andile Jali and Teko Modise (Gallo Images)
Pretoria - Absa Premiership title hopefuls Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates played to an entertaining if somewhat frustrating goalless draw in their Tuesday showdown at Loftus Versfeld.
Both teams created chances to get on the score sheet, but a lack of clinical finishing meant the game ended in a stalemate that leaves the title race in much the same position it was prior to kick-off: the Brazilians remain four points clear of the second-placed Buccaneers.
Sundowns enjoyed the greater share of possession in the first half, though it was Pirates who arguably looked the more dangerous side early on, as the pace of Ndumiso Mabena and Tlou Segolela clearly had the Brazilians’ defence worried.
The home side created a few half chances in attack - with Hlompho Kekana in particular looking dangerous on a couple of occasions with long-range strikes - but the closest they came in the first half was a Teko Modise free kick in the 39th minute that hit the crossbar after Moeneeb Josephs had misjudged the flight of the ball in the air.
A few minutes earlier Pirates’ wingers had almost combined to open the scoring: Tlou Segolela’s cross was met by Daine Klate at the far post, but the former SuperSport United man saw his first-time volley crash into the side netting.
The second half continued in much the same fashion as the first, with both teams creating chances but not quite having the cutting edge to put them away. Sundowns threatened first with a sharp turn and shot from Katlego Mphela that forced Josephs into a save at his near post.
A couple of minutes before the hour mark Pirates created the best chance of the match. Benni McCarthy combined with Segolela before surging past defenders and goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands and teeing up Klate, who skewed his shot well wide, though Sundowns had got three defenders back to cover the goal-line.
The teams enjoyed further half chances in the remainder of the game, but the only real talking point came on 89 minutes when Bucs were reduced to 10 men. Andile Jali picked up his second yellow card for a trip on Modise and was given his marching orders.
Sundowns weren’t able to capitalise on their numerical advantage in the dying minutes. In fact, it was Pirates who almost snatched it at the death when Punch Masenamela deflected a cross just wide of goal, much to the relief of the home fans.