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The dire draw in Soweto was not a true representation of South African local football, with the heroics of Senzo Meyiwa being the highlight of the stalemate

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By Daniel Eslick

The stage was established for Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs to set South African football alight on Saturday, but in the end the immense pressure placed on both the teams spoiled the occasion for the majority of fans and neutrals.

Just like countless World Cup finals, Champions League finals and derby matches the Soweto Derby did not live up to the weeks of advertisements, the weeks of build-up and the expectations soaring throughout South African football fraternities.   

Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates left the pitch to a chorus of discontent at the FNB Stadium on Saturday evening. Looking faintly embarrassed with their team’s performances, Roger de Sa and Stuart Baxter cited pressure and high expectations as the downfall of the derby.

The game was noted as being “too important” by Stuart Baxter, as whichever side could take the three points would have a distinct advantage in the PSL title race. A worldwide audience and a perfect stage for the PSL’s top sides to show what they can achieve fell flat and ended in a dismal stalemate.

The general quality of play was littered with briefs moments of excitement as both sides had opportunities to open the scoring, but their wasteful shots and crosses belied the kind of football both teams have the capability to produce.

The performances of the teams' midfielders was the most disappointing aspect of the Derby, with the likes of Andile Jali, Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Oupa Manyisa not providing the kind of control and attacking impetus they perform week-in and week-out in the Premier Soccer League.

SENZO MEYIWA KEY MATCH STATS
PLAYER RATING
8.5 Meyiwa saved Pirates from what would have been a spirit-crushing defeat by denying a late surge from Kaizer Chiefs. Khune's understudy in the national side, showed he too has the ability to be a hero in goal.

Pirates continuously blasted over long range shots into the stands, wasting opportunities to build passages of play and place pressure upon their rivals.

Afraid to commit too many men forward due to Chiefs destructive attacking ability on the break, De Sa’s side was scared to lose and not confident enough to push for a much needed victory.

Chiefs decided to settle into a counter-attacking style of play, which definitely played into their strengths as they had some of the best chances of the game in the dying embers, but were stifled by the brilliant Senzo Meyiwa who turned in a man of the match performance.     

The goalkeeper, who has been under the spotlight the last fortnight due to Pirates’ poor defensive form, took his opportunity to prove he still has what it takes to be the Buccaneers shot-stopper. Meyiwa’s thoughts on the match were not shared by many however.

"It was a great game. You know, a Soweto derby is not an easy game. I think the coach prepared us very well and we did our best. That's why we managed to hold Chiefs because they are good on counter-attacks, and we tried our best not to concede," Meyiwa said after the match.

"As a goalkeeper it is a good feeling to get a clean sheet. As I said before, it's a derby, It's a big game. So, for us to get a point it is a good result, even though we wanted three points. But one point is okay."

A season which seemed hinged on this result is not over yet, as more twists and turns could come our way in the remaining 10 games of the campaign.

But Chiefs certainly profited from Pirates’ nerves and fear of losing. Five points ahead in the title race and with the ability to build on the lead in the coming weeks, the AmaKhosi may have been handed the PSL crown. All they need to do is accept the title with both hands and not let go.

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