Orlando Pirates warmed up for the Soweto Derby in the best way possible with a 2-1 win over Golden Arrows in their Telkom Knockout Cup last 16 clash.
The victory ensured both Soweto giants will enliven the league cup with their presence in the quarterfinals after their unceremonious MTN8 quarterfinal exits.
As the scoreline suggested‚ Muhsin Ertugral’s side were made to work hard as Clinton Larsen’s charges again refused to surrender meekly.
It only took Orlando Pirates 10 minutes to open their account through Mpho Makola.
While the cross/shot was a speculative one‚ the misjudgement from Arrows goalkeeper Max Mbaeva was a horrible one as he did not know whether to go for the ball or hope it goes out.
The manner in which Pirates celebrated the goal was telling.
It was the first goal in open play this season from anyone else other than Tendai Ndoro‚ highlighting Pirates’ over-reliance on their Zimbabwean superstar.
Golden Arrows were not immediately stung into action but started to impose themselves on the game‚ even though clear-cut first half chances were few and far between.
Mauricio Barrios and Wayde Jooste had good opportunities in the fourth and 45th minutes but goalkeeper Brighton Mhlongo is a far safer bet than Felipe Ovono.
When Arrows lost 3-1 to Pirates in their opening league match of the season‚ they had Ovono’s butterfingers to thank.
Pirates could have and should have scored more than their solitary first half goal but indecision was their worst enemy.
This was apparent when Luvuyo Memela received a delicious pass from Ndoro in the 20th minute but chose to try and be comfortable with his left foot instead of shooting with his weaker right foot.
Ndoro also had 41st minute chance to increase Pirates’ lead but his left-footed curler missed the right-hand upright with Mbaeva beaten.
When Jooste equalised with a well-taken freekick in the 63rd minute from just inside the D area‚ it was apt punishment for a Pirates side whose profligacy bordered on arrogance.
They missed two eminently good chances in the 58th and 60th minutes when Thabo Rakhale and Ndoro lost composure with only Mbaeva to beat.
It took a magical solo run and expert finish by Memela in the 73rd minute to give Pirates a lead they deserved.
Showing the composure that was missing from his earlier first half chance‚ the left-winger skimmed the Arrows defence for pace and his right-footed shot from just outside the box gave Mbaeva no chance.
It was the straw that broke the camel’s back and even though Arrows threw everything but the kitchen sink‚ Pirates’ efficient rearguard ensured there would not be any further scares.
More importantly‚ they have a semblance of form leading into Saturday’s big game.
Weekend’s Telkom Knockout results:
Orlando 2 – Golden Arrows 1
Baroka FC 3 Platinum Stars 1
Kaizer Chiefs 0 Maritzburg United 0 (Chiefs win 4-2 on penalties)
Supersport United 1 Ajax Cape Town 0
Free State Stars 3 BidVest Wits 1
Highlands Park 2 Chippa United 0