Orlando Pirates 0-0 Mamelodi Sundowns: Bucs frustrated in top of the table showdown
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Masandawana dug deep and showed character to thwart a determined Bucs attack, holding out for the draw

Mamelodi Sundowns moved a point closer to the Premier Soccer League (PSL) title while Orlando Pirates would consider the goalless draw as two points dropped following their showdown in Soweto on Monday.

Orlando Stadium played host to a mammoth encounter, albeit slightly delayed, due to thousands of fans stuck in traffic as they came in their numbers to witness two of the title race forerunners do battle.

Both Sundowns and Pirates had a point to prove and with just three points separating the two teams fans were in for an exciting encounter.

However, while a win or a draw would have been welcome at Chloorkop, for Pirates it was rather a case of win at all costs as games were running out for them to leapfrog the Tshwane giants.

Despite the desperation, it was Sundowns who went with a two-prong attack using Emiliano Tade and Lebohang Maboe upfront and they had the game’s first real chance.

A well-timed pass by Langerman was played in between the Pirates backline for Thapelo Morena to latch onto, but he was unable to guide his shot goalwards.

Pirates remained undeterred and found their footing in the clash thereafter even testing Denis Onyango with a tame effort from range.

At the other end, Sandilands was certainly the busier of the keepers during the first half.

Sundowns captain Hompho Kekana though almost gave Sandilands a few sleepless nights as he then tested the keeper with a long-range effort from way out – this perhaps brought back memories of the previous goal conceded to the veteran, but the 35-year-old shot-stopper did well to palm the ball over the bar.

Sandilands was tested and produced another fantastic save this time from Tade as he denied the Argentine from a dipping freekick.

The fans who had braved the earlier downpour were treated to a fascinating half of attacking football, and with both sides having only failed to score on six occasions this season, it seemed likely that the floodgates would open at any given time.

Before the break, Pirates were letting rip at the Sundowns goal and Onyango needed to be sharp as he kept out two rasping efforts ensuring that Sundowns and Pirates headed into the break goalless.

While the first half failed to produce any goals, a lot was expected when the second half resumed. But an early injury to Sandilands which saw him eventually withdrawn for Siyabonga Mpontshane following some brave goalkeeping depleted some of the momentum.

Pirates though looked sharper as they played some interesting balls into the danger area and Sundowns needed to show why they have conceded just 18 goals this season as the defensive pairing of Wayne Arendse and Ricardo Nascimento remained resolute.

Meanwhile, Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane needed a response in order to stop Pirates down the wings, and the 54-year-old looked to Lyle Lakay, who came on for Tade.

With Gaston Sirino, who was the club’s creative mastermind heading into the game ruled out of the game due to suspension, Sundowns were also struggling to break down Pirates’ sturdy backline, and it was hoped that Lakay’s introduction would bring both creativity and shore up the left wing - but that was not to be.

Worrying for Sundowns was the fact that Pirates were relatively late bloomers scoring 27.3% of their goals in the final 15 minutes.

Kekana though looked Sundowns’ brightest spark and looked to bring Mpontshane into the game with a free kick as the goalkeeper had hardly been tested since coming on.

That was before Onyango showed just why he is rated so highly on the continent, producing a stunning save to deny a lively Augustine Mulenga in a one-on-one situation.

Pirates were giving it a real go as they were desperate for three points and Milutin Sredojevic threw on the big frame of Thamsanqa Gabuza and the pace of Kudakwashe Mahachi.

This created for a nervy but exciting final few minutes which undoubtedly tested Sundowns’ title credentials as the Brazilians fought valiantly and held on for their second consecutive goalless draw against their Johannesburg rivals.

 

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