Johannesburg - Arch-rivals Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs played out to a 1-all draw in their Absa Premiership Soweto Derby at a packed FNB Stadium on Saturday afternoon, after the AmaKhosi lead 1-0 at halftime.
Pirates went into the match without the services of their talisman striker Kermit Erasmus after he had signed for French side Stade Rennes earlier in the week. The match marked the 60th time the two teams met in league competition since 1985.
Both sides had great difficulty with man-to-man passing and consequently lost possession in the opening 12 minutes of play. It seemed like players were caught up in the emotion of competing in the derby cauldron.
The Buccaneers were the more penetrative from the outset but the feeds to their front-runners went awry and it was also the case when AmaKhosi managed to mount attacks inside opposition territory. Consequently, neither goalkeeper was tested in the first 15 minutes of play.
Chiefs managed to prise open the Pirates defence and Reneilwe Letsholonyane nipped in behind the rearguard to score but he was flagged offside. Chiefs had another chance two minutes later when Camaldine Abraw headed a Siphiwe Tshabalala cross fractionally wide of the woodwork.
The derby produced its first flashpoint in the 24th minute when Pirates scored after Lehlohonolo Majoro headed home from a free-kick. The goal did not stand, and instead, Limpopo referee Phillip Tinyani ordered the free-kick to be retaken. Tinyani ruled that the Pirates free-kick taker had played the ball before he had blown his whistle.
Pirates' misery deepened three minutes later when Chiefs' Erick Mathoho outjumped three defenders to flick on a Tshabalala corner. The ball landed at the feet of the unmarked Willard Katsande opposite the far post and he slid the ball home for the opening goal. There was a strong response from Pirates as Thamsanqa Gabuza latched onto a long throw-in into the Chiefs' penalty area but his header was parried away for a corner by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.
Ten minutes ahead of the halftime break, Chiefs' Letsholonyane had a chance to fire at the target from just outside the penalty area but he miskicked badly at a time when the Pirates defence was in disarray.
For all their leaky defensive displays in the Absa Premiership, the Pirates defence would have been pleased that despite the lone setback they were giving their chance a fighting chance.
Pegged back by a goal at the start of the second half, Pirates went in search of the equaliser although they forced to contain several good attacking efforts by Chiefs.
Around the hour mark, Pirates seemed to step up their efforts and the Chiefs defence was under siege for a 10-minute passage of play. Pirates made their pressure count when Ayanda Gcaba reeled in a long throw-in into a packed Chiefs goalmouth.
This time, Gabuza made his header count as the ball flew past the unsighted Khune, who injured his ankle in a late attempt to prevent the goal.
Khune was stretchered off and replaced by substitute keeper Reyaad Pieterse.
As the match wound towards the close, play was mostly confined to the central areas although Chiefs finished the stronger and were presented with half-chances to clinch a late match winner.
The Pirates pair Thabo Qalinge (25th minute) and Gabuza (63rd) were yellow-card bookings in the match. - African News Agency (ANA)