Thanda Royal Zulu 3-3 Orlando Pirates (1-3 pen.): Bucs made to sweat for victory in six-goal thriller

Orlando Pirates needed penalties to beat Thanda Royal Zulu in the Nedbank Cup round 32 after the match ended 3-3 at the end of 120 minutes

Orlando Pirates were hoping to avoid an early exit in the competition they won back in 2011 when they defeated Black Leopards in the final.

The Buccaneers made a few changes to the team that drew 0-0 away to Ajax Cape Town during the week, as Eric Tinkler looked to guide the team to the last 16 of the Nedbank Cup at the expense of Thanda Royal Zulu.

The National First Division (NFD) side showed no respect from the first whistle, and had several attempts on goal before finding the back of the net just after a minute.

Andile Fikizolo opened the scoring with a low shot from inside the box after some sloppy defending from Pirates.

The visitors won the free-kick in the 6th minute of the game, but Daine Klate’s curler was punched away by the Thanda goalkeeper Siya Mngoma.

Mhlengi Cele danced his way into the Pirates box in the 11th minute before firing on target, but Meyiwa went down to his left to make a good save.

The two teams struggled to create clear goalscoring opportunities until Andile Fikizolo blasted his out-of-the-box half-volley past Meyiwa to double Thanda’s lead eight minutes from the interval.

Pirates introduced Kermit Erasmus before the start of the second half, but it was Cele who nearly made it 3-0 with only Meyiwa to beat in the 48th minute, but the Bucs shot-stopper made a fine save.

Helder Pelembe had his shot saved by Mngoma a few seconds later, as Pirates looked to pull one back in the early stages of the second half.

On 69 minutes, Cele outpaced the Pirates’ defence on the right hand side, but his shot was well saved by Senzo Meyiwa.

Pelembe’s header shaved the crossbar in the 73rd minute as Thami Ngubane’s charges started to defend very deep in front Mngoma’s goal.

Substitute Mpho Makola was brought down on the edge of the box with less than 12 minutes remaining on the clock, but nothing came out of it.

Ayanda Gcaba pulled one back in stoppage time to give their fans some hope going into the final minutes of the game.

Cele had an opportunity to seal the game a few minutes later, but Meyiwa produced a fantastic save to keep Pirates in the game.

The Buccaneers then levelled matters through Helder Pelembe who tucked it home from close range to send the game into extra time after Mngoma failed to deal with Oupa Manyisa’s floating cross.  

Both sets of players were showing signs of fatigue in the first half of extra time, and a few goalscoring chances were created.

Thabo Matlaba’s left-footed shot went across the face of Mngoma’s goal in the last minute of the first half with the Thanda keeper well beaten.

Boy Gumede was brilliantly denied by Meyiwa on the stroke of halftime having done well to keep Gcaba and Lekgwathi off the ball.

Kermit Erasmus gave Pirates the lead with a clinical finish in the 19th minute of extra time as Thanda Royal Zulu players were clearly struggling to keep up with the pace of the game.

Just when everyone thought it is over, Thanda won a free-kick at the death and the Buccaneers failed to clear their lines, allowing Mhlengi Cele to make it 3-3.

Thanda failed to convert three of their first four penalties to hand Pirates a 3-1 win on penalties and a spot in the last 16 of the Nedbank Cup.