JOHANNESBURG – The first Premiership clash between the master Steve Komphela and his protégé Rhulani Mokwena, the coaches of Golden Arrows and Orlando Pirates respectively, ended in a dull 0-0 stalemate at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday night.
In a game that served different intentions on the field and in the dugouts of both teams, the match started off at a disciplined pace – with more build-up play instead of quick attacks being launched.
That was expected, however, especially considering the relation of the two coaches.
Back in 2009, Komphela gave Mokwena his breakthrough in the PSL, when the latter had to occupy the hot seat in a league match for the now-defunct Silver Stars after the former was serving a suspension.
Ten years later, Mokwena’s career has been shooting for the stars, especially having won the Premiership and coveted Caf Champions during his stint as Pitso Mosimane’s deputy at Mamelodi Sundowns.
But in his third season with Pirates, the 32-year-old coach has been thrown into the deep end, as he has replaced Micho Sredojevic, who surprisingly resigned after three matches into the new season to join Egyptian giants Zamalek SC.
The Serbian tactician left the Sea Robbers in troubled waters as they had lost two successive matches in the Champions League and Premiership.
Mokwena, though, has so far been unable to steer the Buccaneers’ ship to safety, losing his first match against Highlands Park, while drawing against AmaZulu and Green Eagles, who subsequently knocked them out of the Champions League.
In search of their win after five matches, Pirates had to throw the kitchen sink at Abafana Bes’thende if they were to restore the confidence to the Ghost of being title contenders this season.
But in the 19th minute, it was Komphela’s men that nearly drew the first blood, only for Nkosinathi Sibisi to send his header into the stands after being teed up by Knox Mutizwa.
Midway through the first stanza, the Buccaneers had their first real opportunity to be in the driving seat after Gabadinho Mhango won his side a set-piece on the edge of the penalty area.
But the Malawian international’s effort sailed straight into the arms of goalkeeper Edmore Sibande.
Despite the teams failing to create clear-cut chances in the first half, Pirates should have gone into the break with the lead.
From a Mhango corner, defender Innocent Maela rose the highest in the box to intercept the delivery before his glancing header rattled the upright and away from danger, with Sibande well beaten.
The two sides returned to the second half relatively slowly, with Sibande and Wayne Sandilands on a mini holiday.
The visitors were presented with a chance to take the lead when Mutizwa raced to the byline before setting up substitute Nduduzo Sibiya, who fluffed the opportunity by taking his time to pick a spot as Pirates’ defence regrouped.
In the last 10 minutes of the game, Arrows nearly snatched all three points as Sibiya came close to catching out Sandilands, who was off his line, before the latter tipped the effort over the upright.
With the Premiership on a short break due to the MTN8 semi-finals this weekend – and with Pirates and Arrows not taking part – the two teams will then use the Fifa break to recharge their batteries.