ISHMAEL MOHLABE

The University of Pretoria held Orlando Pirates to a goalless draw in a dramatic Premier Soccer League (PSL) encounter at the FNB Stadium on Saturday 30 March.

The result could have been much worse for AmaTuks, who are yet to win a game since Christmas. Pirates’s right-back Happy Jele had his goal ruled offside with just less than ten minutes to go.

The PSL defending champions’s intention was clear from the start of the game. They needed to collect three points so that they could close in on log leaders Kaizer Chiefs. However, the clinical AmaTuks team derailed the host’s plans as the university team went into the game ready to work hard after their 3-1 loss in the two teams’ first PSL clash in October last year.

Before Saturday’s fixture, AmaTuks and Pirates had collected a point each after goalless draws against Ajax Cape Town and Kaizer Chiefs respectively in their last games.

Both teams made shots on goal in the opening 30 minutes of the encounter, with most of the action taking place in the middle of the field. The hosts were first to throw AmaTuks’ goalkeeper Washington Arubi into the thick of the action. Arubi saw the ball slip out of his hands in the 43rd minute in an attempt to catch a dangerous headed cross from Matlaba. Aubrey Ngoma came to the rescue as he arrived first to release the ball out of AmaTuks’ penalty box. Collins Mbezuma set up Dane Klate, whose well-worked moves beat AmaTuks’ defence before he could strike an on-target shot from the penalty box’s corner, only for Arubi to tip the ball for a corner.

The second half of the fixture saw the two teams show a sense of urgency whenever they were in possession of the ball. Pirates could have seen themselves in front three minutes after the interval, as veteran defender Lucky Lekgwathi’s headed cross passed just inches away from the goal line only for Mbezuma to arrive late for the finishing touch.

The Pretoria side nearly broke the deadlock in the 56th minute. Ngoma escaped with the ball through Pirates’ two defenders to involve himself in a one-against-one occasion with Pirates’ goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa. However, Meyiwa made the poles look too small for Ngoma to score as the latter blasted the ball against the Pirates’ goalkeeper.

Nine minutes later, Junior Sibanda struck from 25 yards only for Meyiwa to produce another brilliant save. This came after Jele’s 25-yard effort cannoned off the crossbar while Arubi was in a stationary position. With only ten minutes remaining, Pirates pressed and forced AmaTuks to defend in numbers.

However, Pirates subsequently opened a space at the back for a counter-attack as the players came back strong. Bongani Zungu had a clear-cut scoring opportunity from within the 18-yard area as Meyiwa had to produce one of his trademark saves to keep out Zungu’s volley with just a minute to go.

Klate ended the game with a dangerous diving header from the box. Arubi, however, prevented this goal and helped Steve Barker’s squad to maintain its unbeaten record against the two Soweto giants.

Photo: kickoff.com

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