Johannesburg — So much for being on par with champions Mamelodi Sundowns. Orlando Pirates failed to keep their winning momentum going after being held to a 0-0 draw by Baroka FC in a league clash at the Orlando Stadium on Thursday night.
On Sunday, Pirates co-coach Mandla Ncikazi made an audacious post-match comment after their 2-0 win over LPRC Oilers in the first leg of Confederation Cup play-offs, saying they are on the same level with the 11-time the domestic champions.
But to Ncikazi’s surprise they couldn’t even string three wins in a row after dropping points here which could have taken them to fourth in the league and nine points behind Sundowns who, by the way, are still unbeaten this term.
But truth be said, it’s not that Pirates didn’t try. They created the most scoring chances in the first half but they were again haunted by Oscarine Masuluke. The goalkeeper who earned fame after scoring an acrobatic bicycle against them.
But Pirates will be chuffed with another clean sheet heading to the second leg against Oilers on Sunday. For Baroka, the win-less run continued under coach Kgoloko Thobejane who lost 3-2 to Golden Arrows in his first game back on Sunday.
On the back of those two contrasting results domestically and continentally, this game was expected to produce fireworks. After all, the two teams have both scored in their last 10 meetings in the league, with Pirates holding the advantage.
But perhaps, it’s safe to say a lot has changed since the last two teams met, especially with the change of coaching personnel on either side. But Pirates blemish this season, though, has been their finishing despite dominating early on.
But after scoring five goals and keeping two clean sheets in their last matches they were banking on keeping the momentum going, right? It seemed that way as Oscarine Masuluke was called to make a save as early as the second minute.
Against the run of play, Bonginkosi Makume made a weak clearance that found Fortune Makaringe, who nicely controlled outside the box before thumping a high shot that Masuluke parried away for a corner-kick – as they hung on.
But confidence has a way of making sure that you keep on pushing. And when Deon Hotto managed to jump over an onrushing Masuluke before putting his shot wide off an empty net, you couldn’t help but feel for the Bucs No. 11 after that.
As time flew by, one would have expected Baroka to find their footing in the game. But that wasn’t to be! Instead, it was Pirates’ attack versus Masuluke. The latter kept out a thunderous strike from Ben Motshwari as they searched for the goals.
Soon thereafter, though, the Bucs would be hard-done by their finishing, with Kwame Peprah putting a free header unceremoniously into the empty stands before Motshwari's long-range slow and hard strike sailed inches wide off the target.
Like they did against Arrows, Baroka started the second half well. And they came close to getting the lead after a diagonal free-kick was tipped by Siyabonga Mpontshane before it hit the upright and bounced back into open play.
Pirates, though, again controlled play, sending forays into Baroka’s final third. But their finishing again let them down. And that’s how it ended, with the two teams sharing spoils – defying the sentiments of Pirates’ commander in chief, Ncikazi.