Orlando Pirates went toe-to-toe with Mamelodi Sundowns and lived to tell the tale by knocking out the Brazilians in an entertaining heavyweight bout.
Sundowns’ coach Pitso Mosimane, just like he has done every time leading up to this clash, praised the Buccaneers as the only side in the Absa Premiership that goes toe-to-toe with them instead of parking the bus like many teams do.
Mosimane’s words are a ploy to bait the Buccaneers to go pound-for-pound with Sundowns, a suicidal move if you don’t have a killer knockout punch in your arsenal as the Brazilians are ferocious in such contests. Luvuyo Memela produced that killer knockout, ensuring Pirates defeat Sundowns for the first time in the league since 2014.
The Buccaneers, who are Mosimane’s favourite dance partner, switched up the pace for a change and led, forcing the Brazilians to catch up. Sundowns waddled behind, unable to keep up and suddenly found themselves with two left feet and not the silk moves that helped them romp to the summit and dominate this fixture – winning four of their last five meetings including last year’s 6-0 drubbing here.
Pirates continued to show how much they have transformed from that sorry state by taking Sundowns on and flooring them twice in less than 20 minutes.
A large number of this crowd hadn’t even settled onto their seats by the time Ntsikelelo Nyauza gave Pirates the lead. The rightback pounced on a scramble in the Sundowns’ box from a corner that was miscued by Innocent Maela in front of him. That goal sent a strong statement, the visitors were in the mood. Pirates had most of the ball, most clear cut chances and ran more than Sundowns.
They put Mosimane’s men in an unfamiliar position of being the one dominated. The pressure, on a boiling hot Tshwane afternoon, was too much for Sundowns who ended up making unnecessary mistakes. Motjeka Madisha played a sloppy pass at the back to Tiyani Mabunda that was stolen by Justin Shonga and laid for Mpho Makola who made it two.
Memela should have made it three after going one-on-one with the goalkeeper but he skied his shot much to the frustration of coach Milutin Sredojevic who motioned that there were two Pirates’ attackers against Denis Onyango and they didn’t make it count.
His frustration stemmed from the fact that Sundowns aren’t a team that you leave off the hook when you have them pinned back. Percy Tau, with a beautiful curler, tried to start a comeback but Memela made amends towards the end of the match to guarantee Pirates maximum points.
Mosimane motioned for his club’s fans to calm down as he left for halftime with them gesticulating that he must make a change.
There was a strong security and police presence in this match with the aim of guarding against the hooliganism from Pirates’ fans that spoiled this fixture last season and resulted in several injuries.
There was none of that this time around in an entertaining match of football with the two teams trading blows and not their fans.
This win continued what has been a good start to the year for the Buccaneers who have now scored six goals in their first two matches. It took them seven games to score the same number of goals at the start of the first half of the season. It’s a solid foundation for Sredojevic to work on in taking Pirates to new heights.