The 164th Soweto Derby promised fireworks as Pirates battled it out for bragging rights and much-needed three points.
Both sides went into the game on the back of wins in the Telkom Knockout and with just two points separating the two rivals in the league ahead of kick-off, fans certainly had a reason to be excited.
Amakhosi coach Giovanni Solinas was experiencing his first taste of Soweto Derby action and he was handed a welcomed boost as Leonardo Castro and Khama Billiat both were deemed fit and were immediately drafted back into the starting XI.
Meanwhile, Pirates were looking to narrow the gap between themselves and log leaders Bidvest Wits, and coach Milutin Sredojevic made a surprise change as Marshall Munetsi was brought in for just his third league appearance of the campaign.
Musa Nyatama though, who faced a late fitness test was unable to take his place in the heart of the midfield alongside Xola Mlambo and another Soweto Derby debutant in Ben Motshwari.
Only one of the last four Derbies ended in a clear winner and the nerves were clearly apparent in the opening minutes as several passes were misplaced by both sets of players.
While Pirates looked the sharper of the two sides, Chiefs broke the deadlock with less than 20 minutes on the clock. A mistake by Siyabonga Mpontshane, who was another surprise inclusion, allowed Billiat to capitalise, and the Zimbabwe international made no mistake as he netted his fourth goal of the campaign from close range.
The first half certainly lived up to its billing as one of Africa’s biggest rivalries as some meaty tackles were being handed out. That physicality would eventually end up biting Chiefs as Pirates were awarded a penalty after Augustine Mulenga was brought down by Siyabonga Ngezana.
However, Justin Shonga would be denied by a superb save from Itumeleng Khune.
But Chiefs’ celebrations would be short-lived as Innocent Maela eventually guided his header past a despairing Khune, which sent the FNB Stadium into rapture on the half hour mark.
The tide shifted in favour of Pirates and within the space of about three minutes, Pirates went from being behind to finding themselves in front. Shonga and Mulenga linked up superbly as the ball was put on the plate for Pirates’ top scorer Vincent Pule.
Pirates were tearing the Chiefs defence to shreds as the half-time whistle approached and the combination of Mulenga, Shonga and Pule was causing all sorts of headaches.
Pirates had scored 12 goals in just 10 matches prior to the Derby and their attacking prowess showed as Ben Motshwari was also allowed to push forward.
This saw him come close to a goal with a shot from the edge of the area, although they headed into the break with the one goal advantage.
The resumption of the second half saw the excitement continue and Castro should have levelled matters for Chiefs, but his side footed effort was comfortably saved by Mpontshane. Chiefs were looking to utilise the wing more which allowed them to use their height especially from set pieces.
Chiefs looked the more likely to find the back of the net following the break, and again Mpontshane would be tested as Dumisani Zuma tested the keeper with a long-range drive.
While Chiefs were enjoying the better of the chances they were left frustrated, especially after Billiat was denied by a Pirates defender from point-blank range.
At the other end, Pirates were looking to play on the break using the pace of their attack.
Nevertheless, with an hour played, Shonga should have put the game to bed after a mix up between Khune and his defence which left the Zambian with the goal at his mercy. But he somehow missed the target, keeping Chiefs in the game.
Solinas then threw on Hendrick Ekstein and Ryan Moon as they went in search of the elusive equaliser.
Chiefs scored just 15.4% of their goals in the final 15 minutes of their games and Godfrey Walusimbi came within a whisker of adding to that stat. But the Ugandan’s cross-come-shot just missed the target despite giving Mpontshane a few nervy moments.
Pirates were really quiet during the second half but they did enough defensively to frustrate Chiefs and held on to register their second win over their rivals in successive games.