by Alex Queiros
Not many matches in Africa have the dimension of the Soweto Derby, it is definitely the biggest match in sub-Saharan Africa. First played in 1970, it is one of those matches where goals are almost guaranteed. In fact, there hasn’t been a goalless draw in this derby since 2010. Until today.
It started because the founder of Kaizer Chiefs, Kaizer Motaung, was a former Orlando Pirates star and since then, it is a subject that divides not just Soweto and Johannesburg, but the whole of South Africa. That said, the fans of both teams will sit together, a sight rarely seen in matches of this calibre.
For this match, Soccer City filled to the brim, a feat taken for granted in this match and was badly missed in last month’s Afcon.
Chiefs lead the championship 5 points ahead of Pirates, so this match was important to see if the fight for the title would go on.
The team in gold and black were the favourites for this match, as they haven’t lost since November, against the surprise of the season Platinum Stars. The same cannot be said from the Buccaneers, as they have lost 5 points in their last 2 league matches (loss against Moroka Swallows and draw against Bloemfontein Celtic) and suffered a humiliating 4-1 loss against 3rd tier team Maluti FET College for the Cup.
Kaizer Chiefs used a strong squad, with the only relevant absence being that of Lehlohonolo Majoro, 3rd top scorer of the league. Pirates managed to get centre-back Siyabonga Sangweni back from injury just in time for the game, but are still missing Benni McCarthy and recently lost Sifiso Myeni for the remainder of the season.
Too fast, too messy
The match began at a frantic pace, with both teams showing a will to win, but without much organization. Chiefs dominated the first few minutes, up to the point when Thulasizwe Mbuyane came off injured and Tlou Segolela came on. After that, Pirates became more dynamic and took control of the match, but the first major chance was for Chiefs, but Senzo Meyiwa punched Siphiwe Tshabalala’s shot well clear of any danger.
Not much later, Thabo Matlaba fired a long-range shot, which nearly surprised Itumeleng Khune, but the ball ended up on the roof of the net. The rest of the first half saw both teams losing possession very easily, but it promised a more exciting second half.
Failed to live up to the hype
The second half was played at a slightly slower pace, but even so, neither team managed to create a string of passes long enough to make a successful transition from defense to attack, with most of the opportunities coming from set pieces. However, one of the best chances of the game was in open play as Tshabalala’s curling shot was brilliantly saved by Meyiwa and substitute Sthembiso Ngcobo’s follow-up went over the bar.
For the next 15 minutes or so, the match fizzled out, with the most important situation being a yellow card to Pirates reserve keeper Brighton Mhlongo for throwing his shin pads onto the pitch.
At the 72nd minute, Pirates’ best chance of the match came up, as Khune dropped the ball trying to save a free kick, but the Bafana Bafana keeper redeemed himself by saving Lucky Lekgwathi’s shot.
During the game, both teams were very scrappy with the ball, but during the second period, Pirates lost plenty of the ball and it nearly bit them, but Ngcobo’s weak shot at the 79th minute was not the best way to make the best of the defensive error.
Before the end of the match, Chiefs still had two more chances from Katsande, whose header went over the bar and another from Ngcobo, who made Meyiwa work again.
Sadly, the final score was 0-0 in a match that could’ve been so much more, but in a critical point of the season, the teams were too nervous and didn’t have their feet on the ground.