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COMMENT: Orlando Pirates showed they are on the same level with Sundowns

10:04 GMT 12/11/2018
Mamelodi Sundowns v Orlando Pirates, Phakamani Mahlambi
Following the goalless draw on the weekend, the Sea Robbers showed that they are once again ready to compete

The match-up between Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns has certainly earned its tag as one of South African football’s premier fixtures.

The teams may have played out to a goalless draw this past weekend, but the excitement was most definitely there as tempers flared up on and off the field, making it a tense affair that could equate to one of South Africa’s biggest rivalries.

However, this was a rivalry that perhaps at one time or another was seen as rather one-sided especially as memories of Bucs' 6-0 defeat would have still been on the minds of many of the players present.

But as Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane correctly pointed out in his post-match interview, Pirates have improved.

Over the last couple of seasons, there has been a significant shift in power in terms of league dominance as the Soweto giants have fallen by the wayside, while Mosimane and his charges have become a formidable force in SA football and perhaps even on the continent.

Pirates though, would have been hurt by that, and that could have fuelled their desire to improve.

That desire has transcended in the fact that ever since that unfathomable 6-0 mauling, Sundowns have only been able to win two more games against their rivals.

Last season, was undoubtedly the turning point in Pirates’ fortunes as they were able to record a resounding 3-1 win over Sundowns, ending their five-game league winning streak, in this fixture.

Nonetheless, Saturday's goalless draw came as no surprise as Pirates have grown tremendously in recent years under head coach Milutin Sredojevic. That showed itself on the field of play as Pirates matched their opponents man-for-man, giving little away and often frustrating their opponents. 

This was the first goalless draw since 2012 and should give Pirates a reason to be optimistic as they have also displayed impressive consistency.

Pirates are currently on a nine-game unbeaten streak, this is trophy winning consistency, and when considered that Sundowns have gone 23 games without defeat, it does paint a vivid picture that Pirates are Sundowns' closest competitors.

When Mosimane speaks about Pirates, he tends to put them in the same bracket as Sundowns as they arguably opened the door for the Tshwane giants on the continent, and the 54-year-old is all too aware that if anyone can dethrone them it would be Bucs.

Just look at the battle on the field and it was easy to understand why.

All over the field, Pirates had players, who on talent alone could match the Brazilians, and it could even be said that Pirates may have a strike force even more deadly than Sundowns. Masandawana have netted just 12 goals in the league while Pirates have amassed an impressive 16.

It it also worth noting, that Pirates' decline came on the back of losing some of the key members in their squad. The departures of Andile Jali and the retirement of captain Lucky Lekgwathi among others all contributed to them needing to rebuild.

Sundowns on the other hand were hitting their stride at the right time, but after also losing the likes of Khama Billiat and Percy Tau recently, the tide looks to again be turning in favour of the Soweto giants.