JOHANNESBURG – The most talked-about match in South African football once again produced a lot to talk about, with the headlines dominated by it producing yet another goalless draw, even though both teams promised goals and a winner.
Those predictions fell short as Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates played to their fourth 0-0 draw in a competitive match in the last two years.
While there was not much to talk about in terms of goals, except for near misses, there was a lot to talk about in the tactical game of chess that transpired in the 90 minutes.
Pirates’ central defence problems
As much as Pirates’ defence has improved from the porous bunch they were last season, there are still some holes in it – especially in central defence.
Buccaneers coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic has been improvising in the position, either using the versatile Abbubaker Mobara or converting fullbacks Happy Jele and Ntsikelelo Nyauza.
On Saturday he started with the club’s only genuine centreback, Justice Chabalala, partnering him with Mobara, and they still looked vulnerable.
It’s an area that the club must strengthen in the January transfer window as they have enough fullbacks. Bernard Parker easily opened them up with his clever runs.
Ball players versus a brick wall
Sredojevic’s decision to pack his midfield with ball players – Thabo Rakhale, Thabo Matlaba, Thabo Qalinge and Mpho Makola – with Issa Sarr providing the muscle, helped the Buccaneers control this match.
They were the better team, with most of the ball and enterprising in their play. Pirates pinned Chiefs back, forcing them to only hit back on a counter.
The problem, though, for the Bucs was that they didn’t fully carry out the plan of penetrating Chiefs directly with their skills, reverting to playing crosses that they stood no chance of winning.
The success of Pirates’ plan relied on making the most of the attacking players who interchange roles, without a target man that can be man-marked.
Pirates lacked strength and height in their opponents’ box, making the job of towering Chiefs centrebacks Mulomowandau Mathoho, Daniel Cardoso and Siyabonga Ngezana easy in dealing with the crosses Pirates played to no one.
Chiefs started with just one regular from last season in their back four, Mathoho. The other changes that coach Steve Komphela made were forced by injuries to Kgotso Moleko, Lorenzo Gordinho, Ramahlwe Mphahlele and Tsepo Masilela.
Despite those notable absentees, Komphela made the most of what he had. Joseph Molangoane is a bundle of energy as a wingback, working tirelessly at the back and he is quick to go forward by utilising his speed.
Philani Zulu was solid on the other flank, while 19-year-old Ngezana didn’t play like he was involved in his first Soweto Derby. Ngezana was calm and collected.
Zulu and Molangoane forced Pirates to attack them through the centre, which Chiefs congested with three centrebacks and Willard Katsande also providing cover.
Komphela’s improvisation helped Amakhosi keep two clean sheets against Mamelodi Sundowns on Tuesday and Pirates, collecting four points in the process and giving the coach some breathing space.