A late strike by Justin Shonga booked Orlando Pirates’ place in the final of the Telkom Knockout on Saturday
All eyes descended on Durban as Kaizer Chiefs and Pirates eyed not only bragging rights but looked to book their place in the Telkom Knockout final.
Both Soweto giants have struggled for silverware of recent times but the TKO offered them an opportunity to finally get over their demons.
Chiefs though had slightly more to play for considering that they were keen to avenge their recent defeat to the Buccaneers in the league, and Giovanni Solinas received a major boost ahead of the clash with the likes of Lebogang Manyama returning to the starting line-up for the first time since meeting up in an unfortunate accident.
Manyama partnered Leonardo Castro and the club's top scorer Khama Billiat.
Meanwhile, Pirates were hoping that the combination of Justin Shonga and Vincent Pule would continue to torment their rivals as they successfully did in the previous meeting.
This appeared to be the case early on as Pirates looked to use their pace to their advantage during the early exchanges.
However, it was an open game and Pirates stopper Jackson Mabokgwane was the first to be tested as Chiefs came close to opening the scoring early on. Some good work down the left-hand side saw Godfrey Walusimbi exploit the space offered to him and his chip needed the Pirates to be sharp as palmed the ball away from danger.
The atmosphere at the packed Moses Mabhida stadium only added to the on-field spectacle, and on the 13-minute mark, Bucs fans were up on their feet due to a brilliant team goal which saw Pirates draw first blood.
Fantastic work down the right by Vincent Pule saw the Bafana Bafana star play a sensational through ball with outside of the boot into the path of Thembinkosi Lorch, who made no mistake from close range, giving Pirates their first TKO goal in the opening 30 minutes this season.
Celebrations did not last long as Leonardo Castro had Chiefs back level minutes later. The Colombian was rewarded for his perseverance as he capitalised on a moment of indecision at the back and calmly scored his first goal of the TKO campaign.
The two goals certainly contributed to the tempo of the game as both sides began to get stuck into a few meaty challenges which halted the fluidity of the game. Chiefs were aware of the danger of Xola Mlambo in the middle of the park and this saw the likes of Willard Katsande playing very close attention to the midfield maestro.
Meanwhile, Pirates went into the clash boasting a record of 11 games without defeat and their form appeared to rub off on the field as they looked organised and dominated Chiefs especially in the final third but headed into the break level.
Nonetheless, the second half was a lot cagier with the battle in the middle of the park only getting more physical. But again, a moment of brilliance almost came to fore had it not been for the cross-bar. Mlambo, who already had one goal in the TKO this year, which came in the win over Chippa United, had a shot cannon off the cross bar, to the relief of Itumeleng Khune.
Pirates, who last tasted defeat in the TKO against Pirates 2015, remained dominant and Pule continued to give Walusimbi sleepless nights. The winger almost set up Pirates second of the night as he came in on the inside and play a cross into the danger area which agonisingly missed Shonga’s head with Khune beaten.
Chiefs were struggling, and in an effort to bring about more solidity and an added attacking threat, Solinas opted to bring on Bernard Parker. Pirates responded by throwing on Augustine Mulenga. Both substitutes struggled to make an impact as chances remained few and far between.
Chiefs’ best outlet for a goal looked most likely from a set piece but on several occasions, they did not find the right delivery to test Mabokgwane.
Nevertheless, a rather quiet Shonga in the second half stole the show at the death.
The Bucs star showed great composure following Chiefs’ inability to clear their lines and placed the ball well beyond Khune, depriving Chiefs of yet another trophy.
Chiefs looked to fight on and Mario Booysen had two opportunities at the death, but it was not to be as Pirates held on for the win and continued their recent dominance over Chiefs.