Nothing to separate Bucs, Downs as high-intensity match ends in a stalemate

Absa Premiership defending champions and log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns maintained their good record at the Orlando stadium and, most importantly, the 3-point gap between themselves and Orlando Pirates at the top of the log after withstanding the attacking pressure from the home side to keep a clean sheet, as the two giants played out to an entertaining 0-0 draw in Soweto on Monday evening.

The rescheduled match, as expected for a big Absa Premiership match played during the week, started 18 minutes later than the scheduled 19:30 after kick off was delayed due to a large number of supporters outside the stadium trying to walk their way in.

Sundowns’ Thapelo Morena and Musa Nyatama of Orlando Pirates. Picture: Mamelodi Sundowns Twitter page (@Masandawana).

The match proved to be very much worth the wait when it eventually kicked off, particularly the first half, as the teams went blow for blow the whole of the first 45 minutes, with the two goalkeepers Wayne Sandilands and Denis Onyango being the big difference.

If not for the goalkeepers denying the goals, it was the referee Abongile Tom, as was the case in the 6th minute when Thembinkosi Lorch’s cross made its way into the Sundowns goal after Onyango pushed the ball onto the crossbar, but was ruled to have gone out before it was played back onto the pitch.

The hosts had a few other chances in the first half, with Augustine Mulenga and Luvuyo Memela also testing Onyango, who was always equal to the task on the wet pitch.

The Buccaneers felt they should have been given a one-man advantage in the 31st minute when Lebohang Maboe, who was a constant thorn in the Pirates defense on the other side of the pitch, tackled Memela from behind just outside the Sundowns box with Memela having a clear sight at goal, but the Sundowns midfielder was shown yellow instead.

Sundowns had chances of their own, from as early as 30 seconds into the match, when Thapelo Morena – playing on the right wing – side-footed just wide from Sundowns’ first attack. Their captain Hlompho Kekana tried his luck from outside the box, as he usually does, on 15 minutes, only for Sandilands to parry the shot over the bar.

And as if the match hadn’t been delayed enough, Sandilands spent some time with the doctors on the ground early in the second half after his collision with Sundowns defender Wayne Arendse left him with a cut on the lip.  The former Sundowns shot-stopper recovered after receiving stiches, but was eventually replaced by Siyabonga Mpontshane in the 66th minute after he went off signalling dizziness.

The second 45 did not provide as much excitement as the first did, with very few scoring chances as compared to the earlier part of the game. Pirates did come close to scoring though in the latter stages of the match, as Mulenga was denied at point-blank range by Onyango on 75 minutes, after receiving a high ball in the box, which he brought to control before unleashing a low shot.

Lorch had an even better chance with a few minutes of regulation time remaining, but failed to connect with a bouncing ball inside the 18-yard box.

Pirates next face Bidvest Wits at the Bidvest stadium on Saturday and will be without Lorch for the match because of suspension after he picked up a yellow card for a foul on Emiliano Tade, while Sundowns will be in Champions League action against Egyptian giants Al Ahly, who they host at the Lucas Moripe stadium in the quarter-final first leg on the same day.

Both games kick off at 15:00.