Orlando Pirates enter the Soweto Derby three points behind Kaizer Chiefs after struggling to a draw against a stoical Chippa United
Orlando Pirates faced a defiant Chippa United at the Athlone Stadium on Wednesday night, with the hosts securing a hard fought draw against their illustrious opponents.
Both sides threatened to open the scoring but a combination of lacklustre finishing and brilliance in goal from both Senzo Meyiwa and Daouda Kassaly meant the clash ended in a 0-0 stalemate.
With the excitement building as the Soweto Derby edges closer, Pirates had to focus on attaining a result against Chippa, in order to keep themselves within touching distance of Kaizer Chiefs.
The first league meeting in history between the two clubs was watched by an exuberant crowd and Pirates surged forward early on but their initial attacking moves were hindered by some hard tackling from the unforgiving hosts.
Chippa continued to be resolute in defence as the match began to take shape and Brent Carelse fashioned an excellent chance for Petrus Ngebo with a well-placed header which released the striker in the box, but his close range effort was denied by Senzo Meyiwa.
The chance seemed to awake the sleeping giant, as Pirates almost opened the scoring minutes later, when Manti Moholo forced Kassaly into a save with a shot from 10 yards out which rebounded off the post.
Following Moholo's effort Thabo Matlaba burst forward down the left hand side and unleashed another sensational strike from 30 yards out but his shot went agonisingly wide.
Chippa continued their aggressive approach to the game and the league strugglers held their own as the first half continued, stifling Pirates’ attack with solid defending, which sometimes bordered on hostile, much to the dismay of Roger de Sa.
In the dying minutes of the half Msekeli Mvalo climbed high to muscle a header towards goal, his effort defended valiantly off the line by Klate.
Pressure would have been felt in the Buccaneers change room during the break with Benni McCarthy looking off the pace after returning from injury and the side lacking cohesion in all areas of the pitch.
Pirates did not show immediate improvement on their first half display, as the Chilli Boys continued to subdue their attacking moves with impenetrable defending.
McCarthy almost changed the face of the game in the 55th minute as he found space in the box and unleashed a low drive but Kassaly was on hand with an excellent save.
The striker’s chance sparked a good period for the Buccaneers as Matlaba found acres of space down the left flank and sent in dangerous crosses which led to spurned efforts from McCarthy and Klate.
Senzo Meyiwa displayed his worth in goal with two excellent saves, firstly a close range stop from the head of Happy Jele who would have been grateful to his goalkeeper for deflecting his touch around the post. Minutes later, a vicious strike James Okwuosa was Meyiwa’s second trial, but the diminutive shot-stopper was able to tip the effort over the crossbar.
In-form Collins Mbesuma replaced McCarthy in the 68th minute, with Diego Brown and Sindiso Nqothani coming on for Chippa United, who replaced Cole Alexander and William Twala.
The final twenty minutes saw Pirates throw all their weight into attack and Chippa focus on counter-attacking football. De Sa brought on Oupa Manyisa and Tlou Segolela as the last throw of the dice for the Buccaneers.
Kassaly was on hand once more as Manyisa sent a deligthful curling effort towards the top right corner, but the keeper sprang acrobatically to his left and tipped the ball around the post.
This proved to be the last chance for Pirates and the game ended 0-0, piling pressure on the Buccaneers before the Soweto Derby as they slip three points behind Kaizer Chiefs. Chippa displayed the tenacity they will need to survive a season in the top-flight.