JOHANNESBURG – Orlando Pirates rose from the dead to snatch a point from Polokwane City in a 1-1 draw on Saturday night.
Polokwane were already celebrating a big win that would have given them breathing space from the teams who might be drawn into the fight to avoid relegation.
Pirates were second to Rise and Shine in every contest in this encounter, until Lyle Foster levelled matters with three minutes to go.
The draw will give the Buccaneers confidence in their mini-revival that looked under threat for the better part of the match.
Before Foster stole the show, Dominic Chungwa had announced himself to South African football in style with a powerful strike inside the Buccaneers’ box from Jabu Maluleke’s pinpoint cross.
The former CAPS United forward, who scooped Zimbabwe’s Golden Boot last season, joined Rise and Shine in January to complement Rodney Ramagalela, who leads the race for the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot with nine goals.
Chungwa’s arrival adds strength in an attack that lost Thobani Mncwango to Bidvest Wits, while Rendani Ndou has been linked with a move away from Polokwane.
Even though the Zimbabwean started on a good note, there’s still a lot that he and Ramagalela need to work on to form a telepathic understanding like the one “Rama G” has with Ndou.
Chungwa is a forceful centre-forward, while Ndou relied more on his clever running than his power.
The small issues that Rise and Shine needed to iron out in their attack weren’t exposed, such was the dominance they had over Pirates.
The visitors were calm under pressure, toying with the Buccaneers, who looked ordinary even though coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic fielded the same starting XI that stunned Mamelodi Sundowns a week ago to beat the Brazilians for the first time in the league since 2014.
Pirates looked nothing like the team that beat Sundowns 3-1. They lacked energy, creativity and aggression that saw them take the game to the Brazilians in their own backyard.
The Buccaneers took a long time to get into the swing of things – just like this match that started eight minutes late, due to the net on the left goals not being tied properly.
But they might have well not bothered because the ball hardly came close to touching that net.
Rise and Shine’s defence stood resolute when they were defending those goals, and the hosts sat back in the second half when they were attacking them, comfortable that the one goal they scored would be enough.
That proved costly in the end, as Pirates stole a point from the death.
But it wasn’t pretty for the hosts. The Ghost were stunned silent as they watched a foreign team and not the free-scoring Buccaneers that started 2018 on a high by scoring six goals in two games.
They only found their voices in the last three minutes after Foster helped them steal a point.
Sredojevic bravely substituted fullbacks Innocent Maela and Mthokozisi Dube for strikers Ayanda Nkosi and Lyle Foster in search of an equaliser.
That gamble paid off, with Foster rescuing the hosts from defeat.
But Sredojevic will continue to preach that the side guards against complacency, as that cancer almost knocked them out here.