Johannesburg — Orlando Pirates’ four-game winning streak in all competitions came to an end after they were held to a goalless draw by Golden Arrows in a DStv Premiership encounter at a cool Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Wednesday night.
After Stellenbosch FC failed to move up to second on the log following their 1-1 draw with Swallows at home, second-placed Pirates came to this match eager to close the gap between them and leaders Mamelodi Sundowns to 15 points.
But it wasn’t to be as their rejuvenated performance in the second half didn’t produce a win after a relatively quiet first half. However, they’ll be keen to take some positives from this game heading into the CAF Confederation Cup on Sunday.
Despite their two wins in the league, one in the Nedbank Cup last 32 and one in the Confederation Cup group stage in their last four-matches, Pirates made headlines recently after the remarks of one of their co-coaches about the PSL and Afcon.
Mandla Ncikazi, who was celebrating his birthday on Wednesday, had questioned whether the local league could be better than Afcon as his bizarre excuse for continuing to overlook Gabadinho Mhango who had an impressive outing in the Afcon.
With the two teams boasting ball-players, most of the battle was expected to be in the midfield. And that was the case as Arrows managed to dominate position in the opening stages where Pule Mmodi was dictating play for his team.
This was no ordinary game for Mmodi as he was making his 50th appearance in the yellow and green colours of Arrows. But he was probably eager to impress more, given the fact that he was coming up against his former coach Ncikazi.
However, the pressure to do well didn’t only yield the best from Mmodi. At times he overcooked his passes in the final, while he also found himself in the wrong side of the law, resulting in becoming the first player to receive a yellow card.
Pirates, on the other hand, were happy to sit-back and absorb the pressure, while they were not quick to come out of the blocks early on. As a result, they depended on long balls to find striker Kwame Peprah who was yet to score in this year.
Pirates’ game-plan allowed Arrows’ keeper Nkosingiphile Gumede more time on the ball, while his counterpart Siyabonga Mpontshane was on a holiday. Mpontshane was high on confidence, given that he was yet to concede this year.
Gumede’s ball-playing act nearly cost his team, though, after his short pass was intercepted by midfielder Godman Mosele who tried to catch him off the line but only for his shot to sail wide off goal — as the visitors sighed a breath of relief.
Abafana Bes'thende must have felt hard-done by the fact that they went into the break still tied with Pirates on 0-0. They were also unfortunate as Nduduzo Sibiya had rattled the upright with a well-taken curler from a free-kick before the break.
Pirates flipped the script early in the second half as they were the better side of the two teams. But after making some telling inroads in Arrows final third, they were let down by their poor finishing or the resolute defence from the visitors.
A quick one-and-two between Deon Hotto and substitute Kabelo Dlamini nearly resulted in the breakthrough from the home side but Gumede, who had a busy second half, drew a high flying save to block a goal-bound curler from the latter.
Pirates continued to ask questions, with Zakhele Lepasa’s close-range header saved off the line by Gumede after a free-kick from Hotto. And that's how it ended as the Buccaneers will be banking from a change of fortunesin Africa on Sunday.