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Johannesburg – It was probably a Soweto Derby with the biggest marketing budget and ingredients in history: Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates positioned one and two in the standings and with no other big sporting events scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
We were also told that television audiences from across the globe would be tuning in to see one of world football’s top derbies.
But if indeed the world tuned in, half of it would have been forced to switch channels by the half-hour mark. Perhaps some would have been forced to return in the early stages of the second half when the match became lively and produced scoring chances at either end.
Tension always fills this fixture but when you’ve had such a grand build-up, with tickets sold from about a month ago and selling out with a week to go, you at least expect some goals.
It was not to be, however, as Amakhosi and the Buccaneers settled for a point each, which no doubt left Stuart Baxter’s team happier as the Absa Premiership title is still Chiefs’ to lose.
A draw was always going to suit Chiefs and perhaps that explains why Baxter continued with his strange formation of three central defenders in Morgan Gould, Erick Mathoho and Tefu Mashamaite.
Yet when they descended on this venue in their thousands, the fans certainly expected better.
One clad in Chiefs’ gold and black brandished a huge placard bearing the image of Siphiwe Tshabalala accompanied by the words: “This man will punish Pirates!”
Chiefs also made it clear to everyone who was watching that this was their home game.
The brought dozens of giant club flags, which were waved by yellow-clad fans before kick-off and at halftime.
Just when you thought that was going a bit overboard, the sponsors of both teams ran a competition in the middle of the field, but mercifully for those who couldn’t understand what it was about, it was cut short as officials feared the already patchy, uneven pitch could get worse.
Chances in a dreadful first half were few and far between, but the second half had both sets of fans rising to their feet on few occasions. On two of those occasions, Chiefs were denied by Senzo Meyiwa, who was unsurprisingly named Man of the Match for a splendid display.
After conceding eight goals in his last three domestic games, this was a perfect way for Pirates goalkeeper Meyiwa to redeem himself. His display was so impressive that even Bafana Bafana No1 and his Chiefs counterpart Itumeleng Khune rushed from his goalline to embrace the Pirates man as he was being whisked away for a mandatory television interview.
For Pirates, the penalty that wasn’t given when Tlou Segolela was brought down by Tshabalala will be a sore talking point for a few days, or even months, if they fail to overhaul the five-point gap Chiefs have established and surrender the title.
But for those who may have been let down by that dreary first half, the second period will have given a glimpse of what the derby is all about. – Sunday Independent