MBOMBELA – The biggest winner last night wasn’t even playing, but instead Mamelodi Sundowns were resting and will return to training today with the aim of stretching their lead at the summit even further.
The Buccaneers’ goalless draw with Matsatsantsa a Pitori here last night gave Sundowns the advantage in the two-horse Absa Premiership race.
The Brazilians are three points ahead of Pirates with a game in hand – and should they beat Bidvest Wits on Saturday in that game in hand they will stretch their lead to six points with four matches to go.
The Sea Robbers gave it their all against a team that has consistently troubled them.
Pirates came into this match with just one win over SuperSport in their last 11 meetings in all competitions. Last season Matsatsantsa not only embarrassed Pirates with a 6-1 thumping here, they also drubbed them 4-1 in the Nedbank Cup final in Durban.
In all, Pirates conceded 12 goals against SuperSport in their four clashes in the last campaign. This was a perfect opportunity for the Buccaneers to beat that trend as they now had a potent attack against a struggling SuperSport that was without the suspended Morgan Gould.
But SuperSport didn’t play like a team flirting with relegation. They looked a lot like the side that reached the final of the Caf Confederation Cup last year. They were committed, hard-running and grafted to get the better of Pirates.
This resulted in an entertaining duel as a draw wouldn’t have helped neither of these teams in their different fights – Pirates chasing the championship and SuperSport clawing their way up the log.
Micho Sredojevic mirrored Kaitano Tembo’s line-up by starting with a three-man midfield to counter Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Dean Furman and Teboho Mokoena. It was a chess match on steroids with the stakes very high.
The first half ended goalless because both team’s final pass was poor. But the Buccaneers had the upper hand and even hit the post twice through Mpho Makola and Luvuyo Memela.
Those close calls didn’t dampen their spirits but pushed them. The Buccaneers played like a championship-chasing team, going after every loose ball and their players covered every inch of the grass. They sprayed the ball all over the field in an attempt to open a stubborn SuperSport defence. The Tshwane side stood resolute.
Regardless of what happens at the end of the season Sredojevic has achieved two main objectives. He has brought pride back in a team that was battered all over the show last season and he has renewed the players’ confidence.
Those traits make their hard-to-please more understanding when results don’t come, especially in what has been a dramatic turn-around from recording their worst finish in the PSL-era to being within touching distance from qualify for the Caf Champions League which they would achieve by finishing in the top two.
The thought of continental football brings pride and shame to SuperSport. They are proud of the road they travelled to reach the final of the Confederation Cup. But after that run, their ship started sinking to a point that they are now firmly in the relegation dogfight.
A win here would have given them some breathing space. This point doesn’t do much for their course, especially after Ajax Cape Town won in the Mother City against Bidvest Wits to slice the gap between them and SuperSport to just one point.