Chiefs on front foot in first half

Soccer Laduma - - Siyag Bhoza -

The game started in quite scrappy fash­ion with both sides strug­gling to main­tain pos­ses­sion for a sus­tained pe­riod, and lots of turnovers. Pi­rates’ left flank im­me­di­ately looked dan­ger­ous with In­no­cent Maela look­ing to ag­gres­sively at­tack at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity and with Pule also wider than usual – there was a two-v-one on that wing at times as Zuma strug­gled with track­ing back. How­ever, in terms of early threat, Chiefs were more dan­ger­ous. With God­frey Walusimbi look­ing to push for­ward, it al­lowed Parker the chance to drop deep to re­ceive the ball, be­fore turn­ing to play for­ward. With Nt­shangase closely watched, this looked Chiefs’ best way to pen­e­trate in their build-up, whilst di­rect passes over the top to ex­pose Happy Jele were also a weapon. First, Booy­sen picked out Bil­liat in-be­hind the Pi­rates cap­tain, and there was a de­cent penalty shout from the in­ci­dent; then Parker’s pass over Jele forced Mpontshane to head clear with Bil­liat lurk­ing.

When the open­ing goal did ar­rive, it was from some poor Pi­rates build-up play. With Jele in pos­ses­sion, Maela had bombed for­ward, with Motshwari mov­ing into the left half-space to as­sist in mov­ing the ball for­ward. When the ball was shifted over to Munetsi, the young Zim­bab­wean found that Mlambo was be­ing closely watched by Nt­shangase, and Cas­tro had blocked any path back to the goal­keeper or Jele. He de­cided to go di­rect to­wards Mu­lenga. Chiefs won the first and sec­ond balls, and then when Mlambo tried to read a Parker pass, he was taken out of the game by a quick turn by ‘Hond’ and was out of the game. The lat­ter’s pass found Cas­tro as Munetsi missed his in­ter­cep­tion and, when Walusimbi even­tu­ally got the cross in, Mpontshane could only punch the de­liv­ery into Bil­liat for the opener.

This was an im­pres­sive goal from Chiefs in terms of forc­ing Pi­rates long, and Parker’s ex­cel­lent turn and pass to elim­i­nate Mlambo and Munetsi. How­ever, from Pi­rates’ per­spec­tive, they paid for the lat­ter pair’s er­rors, and then a goal­keep­ing howler.

Chiefs had been the bet­ter side in the open­ing 15 to 20 min­utes, but Pi­rates grew into the game after that, win­ning the ball higher up and then win­ning a penalty after some neat in­ter­play be­tween their Zam­bian strike duo saw Siyab­ulea Ngezana rashly foul Mu­lenga. Al­though Shonga missed the penalty – per­haps not a sur­prise with his con­fi­dence low after a plethora of missed sit­ters in re­cent games – Pi­rates did level soon after through Maela’s ex­cel­lent header from Shonga’s cor­ner. Ngezana had been beaten in the air, but the qual­ity of the out-swing­ing de­liv­ery, and Maela’s move­ment, made it a dif­fi­cult goal to pre­vent – such was the qual­ity. It wasn’t long be­fore Pi­rates went in front, as Ngezana made his third big er­ror of the game. After Booy­sen’s pan­icked clear­ance, Shonga’s beau­ti­ful re­verse pass found Mu­lenga running off the back of Ngezana and he squared for Pule to fin­ish. This was beau­ti­ful ex­e­cu­tion by Pi­rates as Chiefs cen­tral de­fend­ers both failed to cover them­selves in glory. The goal had been com­ing, with Pi­rates now start­ing to find space in front of Chiefs’ de­fence with Nt­shangase so fo­cused on clos­ing down Mlambo that he wasn’t there to sup­port Kat­sande, who had been tack­ling like a man pos­sessed to break up play. The flu­id­ity of the Pi­rates at­tack was also im­pres­sive, as Mu­lenga moved left, Shonga of­ten va­cated the mid­dle and Pule got him­self into scor­ing po­si­tions.

The rest of the half saw Chiefs look­ing des­per­ate to equalise and play­ing some high-risk passes into crowded areas, which saw Pi­rates win the ball and have three or four great tran­si­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties. With Chiefs con­tin­u­ing to push five men for­ward to press, or at least mark an op­po­nent when Pi­rates were build­ing up, it forced Mi­cho’s men to play some longer passes. But if Bucs could by­pass th­ese five play­ers, Chiefs were com­pletely open and there for the tak­ing, es­pe­cially with the right flank re­sem­bling a free­way, and Pir- ates of­ten hav­ing a mas­sive over­load on this flank. By the end, Pi­rates would prob­a­bly have been dis­ap­pointed not to have added a third be­fore the break, and would have been de­lighted by how lit­tle an im­pact Bil­liat was hav­ing in at­tack. Soli­nas would need to sort out the shape of his side at half­time or risk con­ced­ing more goals.

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