NO GOALS, BUT LOTS OF DRAMA
It was a disappointing game between Downs and Bucs, marred by scuffles off the pitch
It remains to be seen how the Premier Soccer League (PSL) will react to the nasty offthe-pitch events that overshadowed the epic Absa Premiership clash between Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates yesterday.
What could have potentially been a show of free-flowing and entertaining football by arguably the Premiership’s most tactically and technically astute sides turned into a display of scuffles.
The pushing and shoving started the moment the Pirates players alighted from their team bus a few hours before kick-off.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane told the media at the post-match conference that the commotion was created by the Buccaneers using his parking.
“I found them parked in my space and I had to walk all the way from outside… I blame our security,” said Mosimane.
It did not end there, as midway into the opening half a hot-headed fan dressed in Sundowns regalia accosted Pirates assistant coach Rulani Mokwena, who is a former member of the Sundowns technical team.
Play was suspended when all hell broke loose between the two opposing benches and security personnel had their hands full trying to separate the two camps towards the half-time break. This led to an additional nine minutes being played at the end of the first half.
Prior to the melee, the display on the pitch by the two sides was filled with promise.
There was an early exchange of firepower, with Sundowns being the first to test the waters through Jeremy Brockie who, with a trademark volley, saw his effort sailing wide after the New Zealander had connected a crisp pass from Andile Jali.
The in-form Jali was carried out on a stretcher with a hamstring injury 10 minutes into the game and replaced by Tiyani Mabunda.
“Jali always gives us box-to-box [performances],” said Mosimane, adding that he was worried the player could be out for up to four weeks.
“We are disappointed in the draw because this was our home game. We played well against a team that always dominates everywhere – we did not want to allow that.
“We looked after their important players, Xola Mlambo and Ben Motshwari, who we forced into kicking long balls.”
Mosimane also made note of the Bucs attack which was powered by the pace of Vincent Pule, Thembinkosi Lorch and Justin Shonga, with Thabiso Kutumela always making timely runs emerging from the centre.
In contrast, the Pirates backline had little to do, with Brockie already in their back pocket, but they were later put on their toes by Phakamani Mahlambi, who Mosimane unleashed on the hour mark.
The former Al Ahly striker made an immediate impact as Bucs goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane had to turn his shot around the post for a corner, with his first touch a few seconds after he had replaced Brockie.
Not to be outdone by his equally tactically astute counterpart, Bucs coach Milutin Sredojević countered with the introduction of Augustine Mulenga for the tiring Kutumela.
Sredojević said tactics won on the day, even though he registered his disappointment with the scuffles.
“This is not a gesture of the big clubs. I’d rather talk about the events on the field,” said the Serb.
He added: “Everything was there for the big game, except the ball didn’t go into the net.
“I believe we played courageously. It was a match of pressing traps.”
Sredojević also shrugged off suggestions that Mokwena was overruling him on the bench.
“I am totally in charge.”
The closing stages gave the capacity crowd – with Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter also in attendance – the opportunity to witness a nerve-wracking finale, but the two powerhouses refused to give in under pressure.
In the end, a point apiece was worth the shift put on by the two former African club champions, even though Thapelo Morena could have won it for Sundowns had the full-back not been indecisive inside the penalty box.
A Pirates win would not only have extended the Buccaneers’ lead at the top, but the result could have given a brilliant send-off to the legendary Oscar “Jazzman” Dlamini, who passed away this week.
Dlamini, who was part of the allconquering Bucs team of 1973, was buried yesterday.
Pirates will now face Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs in the Telkom Knockout semifinals in Durban on November 24, before Sredojević’s side meet the Seychelles outfit Light Stars FC in their opening CAF Champions League fixture a few days later.
Similarly, Sundowns – who remain the only unbeaten side in the premiership so far – will also be competing in the premier continental club competition.
The Brazilians have been drawn against Leones Vegetarianos of Equatorial Guinea.
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HEADS UP Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Gastón Sirino pushes Orlando Pirates defender Happy Jele as he eyes the ball during the Absa Premiership match played at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria yesterday