Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town â€“ With even more hype than usual preceding the
first Absa Premiership derby of the season between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer
Chiefs, the hard-fought 1-1 outcome in challenging heat on Saturday will hardly
have surprised too many punters.
The sheer magnitude of the occasion between the Soweto â€œbig
twoâ€?, played out before an audience of some 87 000 at FNB Stadium, seemed to
engulf many of the players on both sides.
After all, it went out to a wider global television
constituency than before and the event also only swells as an iconic â€œsocialâ€?
date on the Highveld calendar, with VIP and fashion statement-spotting on the
higher tiers just about as much a part of the on-day landscape as the action
between the white lines itself.
This meeting was again anything but a showpiece of technical
excellence in South African football, although with dispossession a prolific
feature virtually throughout, the game at least had plenty of counter-attacking
fluidity to it and no lack of goalmouth activity.
The respective goals also bore signs of classy finishing,
Collins Mbesumaâ€™s for the Buccaneers and later Lehlohonolo Majoroâ€™s leveller
for Chiefs both the result of sweet, well-placed left-footed strikes.
Pirates coach Roger de Sa rightly noted afterwards that it
was â€œimportant not to lose todayâ€?, as that outcome would have pushed leaders
Chiefs into six-point daylight over their fiercest rivals on the table.
He also made the valid observation that â€œthis result wonâ€™t
define the championsâ€? for 2012/13.
But will he also quietly be ruing the possibility that his
charges, either consciously or subconsciously, went into goal-protection mode a
tad too early, considering that they had grabbed the lead inside the first
quarter of the fixture?
While it was true that they had a potentially game-killing
second goal by Mbesuma ruled out for off-side, it always seemed as though
Pirates began to retreat more and more as the match progressed and just about
invited the near-inevitable equaliser.
The Amakhosi, frankly, will be particularly comfortable with
the stalemate, given their ongoing three-point cushion at the summit … and
also a pretty strong likelihood that they can extend it further over the
remaining two rounds of PSL matches before the season goes into a lengthy
They have two home matches to contemplate ahead of the break,
after all, first against the University of Pretoria next Saturday and then
AmaZulu (basement club at the time of writing) the following Tuesday (December
Pirates have the tougher pair of fixtures, on paper, and
both â€œawayâ€? even if their game against surprise packages Maritzburg United on
Friday will probably seem more like a home clash as they are likely to command
the bulk of support at neutral Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
Next up for the Buccaneers, on December 19, are Golden
Arrows at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
There just seems a better chance of Chiefs winning both
their games before Christmas, which means that they could have the satisfaction
of going on â€œholidayâ€? five or six points clear of Pirates if, say, they fail to
win at least one of theirs.
With 16 rounds of PSL activity to be done and dusted before
hostilities finally resume on February 12 for the 14-round run-in, such a
scenario would make it squarely â€œadvantage Chiefsâ€? entering what some experts
are viewing as virtually a new season considering the length of time in which
league activity is suspended.
The next Chiefs-Pirates derby, incidentally, is scheduled
for March 9, perhaps a bit earlier than some neutrals would like, bearing in
mind that the season will still have more than two months to go.
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