Orlando Pirates failed to secure maximum points as they were held to a 1-1 draw with a stubborn AmaZulu side in their opening DStv Premiership clash at the Jonsson Kings Park Stadium on Saturday evening, writes DYLAN APPOLIS.
The Buccaneers came into this game high in confidence after beating Cape Town City 1-0 in the MTN8 quarter-final to advance to the next round of the competitions.
The game got off to a slow start with both teams trying to find their rhythm during the opening exchanges.
Pirates were awarded a penalty in the 18th minute when Sibusiso Mabiliso hacked down Sipesihle Ndlovu, although replays showed it should have been a free kick just outside the box. Gabadinho Mhango stepped up to convert from the spot kick.
Following the controversial penalty call by the assistant referee, tempers started to flare with challenges flying in from both sides in this tightly contested match.
Usuthu were then awarded a penalty of their own in the 33rd minute following a foul on former Pirates’ Luvuyo Memela. Lehlohonolo Majoro stepped up but Wayne Sandilands saved his initial shot before he found the net on the rebound.
Sandilands came to his side’s rescue deep in the half to collect a cross but spilled the ball out to De Jong, who aimed for goal, but the Pirates keeper blocked it well to deny De Jong from close range.
Mhango had a chance to hand his side the lead with four minutes to play when he received a pass from Ndlovu, but the forward fired his effort over the target from an acute angle as the game went into the break locked at 1-1.
Josef Zinnbauer opted to make a double change early in the second half as Deon Hotto and Ndlovu were replaced by Vincent Pule and Thembinkosi Lorch, respectively.
AmaZulu had the first real chance of the second half in the 49th minute as Majoro spotted Sandilands off his line and attempted to lob the Pirates keeper from distance, but Sandilands got back into position to guide the ball over the crossbar.
Sandilands was called into action again eight minutes later as he pulled off a great save to deny Majoro’s curling effort heading for the far corner.
The Buccaneers had a chance to take the lead in the 67th minute as Fortune Makaringe unleashed an effort at goal, but Mbatha comfortably trickled his shot away from danger.
Makaringe had another chance eight minutes later after he latched on to a ball by Ben Motshwari before creating space for the shot, but the Pirates attacker could only fire his effort against the Usuthu players to win a corner.
Zinnbauer made more substitutions in the 79th minute as Linda Mntambo and Kabelo Dlamini was brought on to replace Makaringe and Dzvukamanja, before bringing on Lepasa in place of Mhango seven minutes later.
AmaZulu had the chance to win it at the death when Majoro headed his effort towards goal from close range, but Sandilands did well to keep out the striker’s goal-bound effort.
Both sides pressed forward in search of a winning goal in the closing stages, but were forced to settle for a point each as the match ended 1-1 at the Jonsson Kings Park Stadium.
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