Disregard Orlando Pirates in this Absa Premiership race at your own peril.
That was the loud statement Pirates sent out on Sunday as they dramatically cut Mamelodi Sundowns’ lead at the summit to just four points with a 4-2 victory over Chippa United at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
Pirates set up a potentially explosive Soweto Derby on Saturday against arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs, who are also part of the chasing pack.
The Buccaneers almost slipped up just like Amakhosi, who had a chance to cut Sundowns’ lead to just three points on Saturday, but lacked aggression and were held to a goalless draw by Bloemfontein Celtic.
Pirates had plenty of aggression on Sunday in PE to bounce back from two disappointments to win an entertaining match against a tough team to beat.
This was a mini-reunion of sorts, with nine people on the bench and the starting line-ups having represented both teams – including Chilli Boys coach Teboho Moloi, who grew up at Pirates as the son of the club’s legend Percy “Chippa Chippa” Moloi.
Teboho also served as the Buccaneers’ assistant coach in various stints, before cutting the umbilical cord to be his own man in Port Elizabeth.
On the opposite side was Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic, his friend and former colleague at Pirates more than a decade ago.
The former Pirates players at Chippa were the ones who had more to prove following their demotion from the Sea Robbers ship, while the Buccaneers are chasing the Brazilians in the league.
That resulted in a hotly contested and entertaining match, with neither side willing to be bullied into submission.
Katlego Mashego, a former Pirates striker, looked to have derailed the Buccaneers’ championship chase with a goal from his first touch of the match.
But Thembinkosi Lorch, a former Chippa star, rescued the Buccaneers at the death to give the Soweto giants three crucial points.
Justin Shonga sealed the deal with a thunderbolt at an awkward angle.
We’ll just leave this here. 👮🏾🚀🥅 pic.twitter.com/5304yEu9NQ
While that thunderbolt showed his power, the Zambian’s first goal showed his agility by controlling and scoring in a congested box.
This win will give the Buccaneers an extra spring in their step not only in the Soweto Derby, but also in the final stretch of the league race.
They showed they can be regarded as genuine title contenders due to their fighting spirit and ability to turn on the magic when they need to.
The Buccaneers had to work for these points.
They were behind early in the match after a brilliant goal from Mxolisi Macuphu who scored from a tight angle.
Sredojevic’s man responded quickly through the boot of Bernard Morrison, who scored his third goal in two matches.
The Ghanaian converted a penalty that was awarded to Pirates due to Paseka Mako judged to have handled the ball in the box.
Chippa almost spoiled the party with seven minutes to go, as Mashego scored from a scramble in the box to make it 2-2.
Pirates showed great character to recover from that setback, stretch their lead and jump to second place in style.
This win and Chiefs’ coach Steve Komphela’s words – that the Soweto Derby will produce fireworks – could see the two Soweto giants’ fans finally spoiled on Saturday, instead of watching the snooze-fests that have characterised this match.