Saturday’s match between Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns at Orlando Stadium ended in a goalless draw, sending the two teams into the second leg of their MTN 8 semifinal tie tied at zero goals apiece.
Midfielders Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo and Monnapule Saleng made their debuts, while striker Kermit Erasmus started off the bench in his first game back with the Buccaneers.
Early on, it was the defenders who were actively involved, with Innocent Maela and Olisa Ndah gaining touches in defense as Sundowns attempted to advance without breaking the home team’s back three.
Prior to Saleng’s shot from a dead-ball situation in the 12th minute, there had been little goalmouth action in the first 10 minutes of play.
This was the beginning of a promising spell for the Buccaneers, who were gaining confidence as the game progressed. Moments later, another debutant, Ndlondlo, took the Buccaneers’ first effort on target from a distance, but was unable to trouble the Sundowns goalkeeper.
They remained deep within the opponent’s territory, where Saleng’s attempted cross from the left was intercepted by Williams just before the 20-minute mark after Miguel Timm played him in. Prior to this, Sundowns had a half-chance of their own through Themba Zwane, who had enough space to volley from inside the box but missed the target.
Nkosinathi Sibisi nearly beat Williams with a header from the far post on the stroke of the half-hour mark after the hosts retained possession of the ball following a set-piece situation.
Neo Maema nearly gave Sundowns the lead heading into the tunnel after finding space on his flank, but his shot missed the mark by a wide margin.
Pirates had the first meaningful opportunity of the second half, and it fell to Zakhele Lepasa, who met a long ball from Sibisi sent down the middle, resulting in a one-on-one scenario with Williams, but the Sundowns goalkeeper was able to parry the ball away to safety.
The Bucs bench made substitutions after the hour mark, with Erasmus making his second debut for the club before Thabiso Monyane and Vincent Pule returned from injury.
The trio could have made an early impact, as Monyane combined with Pule in the 74th minute, but Pule’s intended cross for Erasmus was cleared for a corner kick.
The Bucs striker could have reintroduced himself to the Bucs crowd in style with a brilliant move from long range and a goal-bound drive that was deflected over the crossbar when the outcome was almost certain.
Pule missed a last-gasp chance after Goodman Mosele found him on the left, and that proved to be the only serious chance for either side as the two clubs head into the second leg at Peter Mokaba Stadium with all to play for in the quest for a spot in the final.
Pirates XI: Ofori, Ndah, Sibisi, Maela, Mosele, Timm, Shandu (Monyane 73′), Hotto, Saleng (Pule 73′), Ndlondlo, Lepasa (Erasmus 63′).