The opening game of this year’s Vodacom Challenge ended in victory for Orlando Pirates over Manchester City, thanks to a penalty from Lucas Thwala and a fine long range shot from Phenyo Mongale.
Orlando Pirates locked horns with Manchester City in the opening game of the Vodacom Challenge today at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane. The Citizens have arrived in South Africa to take on the two Soweto giants, Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs in the pre-season tournament, to get their side ready for the Premier League season ahead.
Meanwhile the Buccaneers used this game to prepare for their grueling shortened season as well, with a number of new players being introduced in the match from both sides. The fans in the Peter Mokaba Stadium were keen to see the English Premier League side coming up against the Buccaneers, welcoming the players onto the pitch with the vuvuzelas that have become so famous in recent times.
The game got underway with both teams boasting their new kits for the season ahead in Polokwane. An early chance fell to Pirates, but Stuart Taylor was on his toes and he saved easily. It was obvious from early on that a great deal of the play would take the form of midfield battles between the two sides. A confident looking Pirates side were pushed forward by the Polokwane support, but they struggled to pass the stubborn City defence.
In the 7th minute a quick counter attack from the Citizens almost resulted in a goal, as a cross to Bellamy was just out of reach, but his pressure forced Pirates captain Lekgwathi into clearing dangerously close to his goal line. A few minutes later Lekgwathi had a long range effort for the Bucs, but his shot was off target and did not worry Taylor. A minute later Bojinov should have put Manchester City ahead, as a bouncing cross found the player alone in front of Josephs, but his finish let him down and the Pirates keeper parried. Soon after that scare, a fantastic long range volley from Weiss went agonizingly wide for the visiting English side, before Mahamutsa did well to block Michael Johnson’s diagonal shot.
Taylor looked solid in the City goal, but Pirates were not able to get to the former Arsenal keeper as much as they would have liked. In the 26th minute a mazy run down the left wing caused problems for the City defence, but before he could do anything useful with his attack, Ben Haim did well to poke the ball to safety. Captain Stephen Ireland worked tirelessly in the midfield, leading by example and launching a few dangerous attacks for Manchester City. After end-to-end stuff in the early stages, neither side could find a shot on goal around the half hour mark.
In the 35th minute Pirates took the lead, as the Bucs were awarded a penalty following a foul from Ben Mee on Frank Olivier, and defender Lucas Thwala coolly slotted past Taylor in the Citizens goal. The fans reacted to the goal with celebrations, as the singing and dancing in the stands continued to inspire the Pirates players. City’s reply was a fantastic strike from Bojinov five minutes later, as the striker forced Josephs into a fine diving save to deny the Citizens from scoring.
In typical Bellamy style, the Welshman received a yellow card shortly before the break after constant complaints towards the ref received an official reply. After a few seconds of injury time, both sides went into the break with Pirates in the lead.
In the second half of the game, Benjani and Vidal came onto the pitch for Manchester City, while Pirates introduced Kamwendo, Mabena, Mongale and Jali to the mix. Few chances fell to the two sides in the early exchanges, with the new faces trying to gel with those already on the pitch in the first half. Manchester City moved slowly in the midfield, looking as though they were waiting for something to happen, rather than making it happen themselves. Pirates coach Ruud Krol sat on the bench, watching closely and quietly, as Mark Hughes looked disappointed with his charges.
In the 55th minute, substitute Mongale unleashed a fantastically precise shot from the left wing, as his effort floated over Taylor and into the City goal of the post for Pirates’ second of the encounter. A few minutes later Pirates were once again on the attack, but Taylor did well to come off his line and deny the Bucs a third goal. The South African team grew in confidence as time went on, and Manchester City seemed to resign to a loss, with little effort being made in attack.
In the 66th minute the Citizens had a free kick in a dangerous area on the right wing, but the resulting cross saw Pirates clear their lines and go onto a quick counter attack, before Ben Haim put a stop to it. With twenty minutes remaining, Hughes put Nigel De Jong and Felipe Caicedo onto the pitch in an effort to change the flow of the game and get back into it, and it had an immediate affect, with City looking more threatening up front, and the fresh legs helping to dominate possession for the first time in the game. In the 73rd minute Kamwendo came out of nowhere to unleash a fine volley from distance, which Taylor did very well to block.
The vuvuzelas grew louder as full time approached, with the fans sensing that a historic win was on the cards. Pirates did well to regain possession, and pass the ball around in a manner that frustrated the tired Manchester City players. Rather than moving forward, the Bucs held possession in midfield, knowing that holding onto a 2-0 lead was not an impossible task. Despite that manner of thinking, the Soweto side managed to hit the post in the 85th minute thanks to a scramble in the City box and fine work by the Pirates attacking players.
After an entertaining first encounter in the Vodacom Challenge, Orlando Pirates completed a two-goal win over Manchester City, celebrating Nelson Mandela's birthday with a victory for the Buccaneers.
ORLANDO PIRATES 2–0 MANCHESTER CITY
GOALS: Thwala, Mongale (Pirates)
ORLANDO PIRATES: Josephs, Thwala, Makonese, Lekgwathi, Mahamutsa, Mabalane, Chenene, Mthembu, Jali, Olivier, Kiaku.
MANCHESTER CITY: Taylor, Zabaleta, Ben-Haim, Mee, Garrido, Weiss, Ireland, Johnson, Bojinov, Petrov, Bellamy.
Peter Pedroncelli, Goal.com