Pirates, Sundowns fail to fire

The Brazilians were the better team during the most part of the match, but the Buccaneers had the upper hand during the latter stages.

The Buccaneers had quite a changed line-up compared to their 4-2 win against Thanda Royal Zulu. Rooi Mahamutsa (suspended), Lebogang Mothibantwa (benched), Dikgang Mabalane (injured) and Innocent Mdledle (injured) were all out.

They were replaced by Lucky Lekgwathi (his first start this season), Mlungise Gumbi, Joseph Makhanya and Destin Makita. Sundowns had Kurt Lentjies, Thando Mngomeni and Benedict Vilikazi coming into their starting line-up.

Sundowns started as the better team and they got their first opportunity in the 14th minute. But Robyn Johannes headed the ball over the bar from close range, after a well directed corner by Lerato Chabangu.

Pirates coach Ruud Krol, however, suffered an early setback when the in form Thulasizwe Mbuyane had to leave the field due to an injury, which came as a result of a harsh Johannes tackle. The Sundowns defender was correctly yellow carded by referee Peter Mabuza for his action. Mbuyane was replaced by Bennet Chenene.

Makhanya could have scored in the 28th minute, but he hit the side netting with his shot. Sundowns continued to have most of the ball possession and they looked the more dangerous side. Pirates looked to have one eye on the Telkom Knockout semifinal against Bloemfontein in the weekend, while goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa looked shaky at times.

The second half started like the first with Sundowns the dominant side. The Brazilians midfielder Mngomeni looked to have the opening goal of the game at his foot, but Meyiwa made a fine save, diving to his left.

But Pirates slowly got more ball possession of the ball from about the 55th minute. Benson Mhlongo even could have scored in the 57th minute, but his shot with his weaker left foot from inside the box was easy pry for Sundowns keeper Calvin Marlin.

It was not really the Buccaneers' night, but they were fighting hard and never panicked at the back, keeping composure. The Brazilians, meanwhile, seemed to run out of steam the longer the game progressed.

Sundowns coach Henri Michel tried to change the flow of the game to his advantage by bringing on Josta Dladla (for Chabangu) and Surprise Moriri (for Vilikazi).

However, it did not help and Pirates even looked the more likely to score during the last ten minutes of the match. Brazilians defender Siboniso Gaxa, who otherwise had a good game, received his second yellow card from referee Mabuza in the 90th minute of the game and, as a consequence, had to leave the field. Still, Sundowns substitute Lungisani Ndlela nearly scored the winner in the dying seconds of the encounter, but his attempt was well blocked by Meyiwa.