Pirates edge Vasco da Gama
:Cape Town - PSL rookies Vasco da Gama made Orlando Pirates work extremely hard for a 2-1 win at the Cape Town Stadium on Friday night.
It was a superb game of football which swung from end to end and provided the perfect kick off to the new Absa Premiership season – in the end it was a pity there had to be a loser as Vasco played their hearts out and Pirates played their part with some flashes of excellent football.
The first half was action packed and provided magnificent entertainment for the crowd, which grew throughout the opening 45 minutes, as did the noise levels and electric atmosphere at the former World Cup stadium.
The home team made a comfortable start, not looking too overawed. But Pirates also appeared to grow constantly more dangerous and they began to string passes together and find their rhythm.
Vasco needed an early goal to settle nerves and new signing Sibusiso Zuma, brought in to score goals, complied, netting the first PSL goal of the season when he found himself unmarked at the back post and sneaked in a header past Moeneeb Josephs following Omar Hendricks’ 22nd minute corner.
The Soweto side did their best to hit straight back, but the Vasco defence did well to weather a succession of corner kicks.
The pressure however continued to come from the Buccaneers and in the 32nd minute the score-line was level at 1-1 when Lucky Lekgwathi acrobatically put the ball into the back of the net after a goal-mouth scramble.
Vasco though were by no means dispirited and with five minutes to go Lesch, as well as Excellent Walaza and Lebogang Mothinbantwa all made a nuisance of themselves in the Pirates box – when the sides went in for the half time break it was very much on even terms with the game all to play for.
There was no letting up in the pace of the game after the restart as the intensity remained relentless.
The Johannesburg side had the first opportunity of the second stanza when Daine Klate put in a superb cross for Ndumiso Mabena, but his header from close range was off the mark.
Action continued unabated and after Lesch had gone close with a well-connected 30-yard effort, Mabena again disappointed the Pirates faithful when he failed to beat Jason Barnard from close range – credit though to the keeper for a fantastic reaction.
Then it was Vasco’s turn again as Robbie Santos released Zuma down the right - the latter’s shot coming very close to dipping late under the bar from some distance out wide.
With the Mexican Wave in full flow, and the action on the field red hot, it was developing into a real thriller when Pirates went in front for the first time, Isaac Chansa finishing clinically in the 68th minute after Tlou Segolela had provided a deadly cross from the right.
Zuma nearly fashioned an equaliser seven minutes later with some real guile in the box, but Josephs was up to the task, making a smart save at his near post.
And the Cape side were again extremely close to equalising when in the 85th minute Bradley August sent a header into the upright.
Yet it proved to be a case of so far yet so near for the home team, while Bucs coach Ruud Krol would have been thrilled with three points from a tricky first game.
Vasco da Gama (1) 1 (Zuma 22’)
Orlando Pirates (1) 2 (Lekgwathi 32’, Chansa 68’)
Vasco: (4-5-1) Barnard; Isaacs, Adams, Carelse, Hendricks; Walaza (Santo 55’), Mothibantwa, Lesch, Karkee (Kgafane 69’), Armogam (August 82’); Zuma.
Pirates: (4-4-2) Josephs, Jele, Lekgwathi, Mahamutsa, Cloete; Segolela (Modise 70’), Jali, Chansa, Klate (Ngobeni 92’) ; Mabena (Msowoya 65’), Mbuyane