Johannesburg – Orlando Pirates painted the FNB Stadium red on Saturday and emerged with the advantage after part one of the MTN8 semi-final.
The Buccaneers’ decision to play this Soweto derby in red shirts, as opposed to their traditional black and white may well have been inspired by the colour of their sponsor, rather than any kind of affinity with the sporting heroics of, say, Tiger Woods.
After all, Pirates and Chiefs’ shirt sponsor just happen to be the direct rival of the company backing this tournament. A remarkable number of Pirates fans in the stadium also seemed to have got the “red or dead” memo.
Either way, it was Amakhosi left with the bloody noses, edged out by their rivals on a beautiful sunny afternoon on the outskirts of Soweto.
Daine Klate had spoken before this game of dreaming of scoring a free-kick in a Soweto Derby. And proving the old adage that dreams can come true, he bent in the sweetest of free-kicks to hand the Buccaneers the spoils.
Hell hath no fury like a side scorned by their rivals last season, and Pirates started this game as if desperate to show their intention to steal domestic dominance back from Amakhosi in the new campaign. Chiefs just could not cope with the flurry of red menace, Sifisio Myeni, Tlou Segolela, Klate and Lennox Bacela, running mesmerising patterns around glazed Chiefs defenders.
Occasionally the skills on show were slightly pointless – showboating always draws a cheer, but in the first 10 minutes? – but mostly they were bursting with purpose and power, as if the Buccaneers were inspired by their recent continental brilliance.
Chiefs were reduced to some rather industrial tackling, referee Phillip Tinyane arguably lenient in only yellow-carding Willard Katsande and Siboniso Gaxa. After Katsande’s early studs-up tackle on Segolela, a full-on brawl nearly ensued.
Roger de Sa had lashed out verbally at Tinyane after a Swallows-Pirates derby match in February, and at times it seemed he might blow another gasket.
Stuart Baxter had his own moments with the referee, but appeared more concerned with his side’s performance, Chiefs slow to get going, forced on to the back foot by Pirates’ pizzazz.
When they did create space in attack, Chiefs’ shooting, in the first half, was awful, as if they had been watching too much of Morné Steyn at this venue last week. It might have got them three points on a rugby field, but it wasn’t getting them anything here.
Knowledge Musona came on after the break, and got in a tussle with Lucky Lekgwathi, the Pirates captain the next to embarrass himself with an Oscar-worthy tumble.
It’s always amazing how wonderfully noisy and vibrant Chiefs and Pirates fans are at the derby, especially when the game can become a bit of a scrap-fest, as it did for large periods of the second half.
Chiefs, to their credit, picked up the pace as the game wore on, and the gold and black in the crowd gasped as Bernard Parker’s effort came back off the inside of the post. And Musona at the death brought back memories of his first spell in a golden shirt, twisting brilliantly away from defenders, but providing only a tame finish.
With the second leg still a month away, and just a goal in the tie, there is still plenty of time, literally and tactically, to run in this semi-final. But this was a day, like Tiger so often in the final round, for men in red shirts to come home with the spoils.