|Rooi Mahamutsa © Backpagepix
Maritzburg United put in a strong showing to hold Orlando Pirates 0-0 in an Absa Premiership match at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.
The Team of Choice was unable to capitalise on the opportunities they created and forced to settle for a point which brings them level with University of Pretoria – though the KwaZulu-Natal club remains rooted in the automatic relegation spot.
As for the Buccaneers, they will also feel disappointed as having missed out on the chance to close in on the top five. Eric Tinkler’s team remain sixth, three points adrift of fifth-placed Black Aces.
Maritzburg were the first to threaten a goal, with Zimbabwean striker Evans Rusike sending a well-struck drive just wide of the near post from a tight angle as early as the seventh minute.
Pirates’ only notable attacking highlight in the first half arrived just past the half hour mark, with Thamsanqa Gabuza presented with a great sight of goal only to be quickly closed down and ultimately denied by goalkeeper Virgil Vries.
Maritzburg suffered a blow late in the half when they were forced to withdraw key playmaker Kurt Lentjies, who succumbed to a knee injury he carried into the match, though the speedy Sheldon Van Wyk was a more than useful replacement.
The first chance of the second half went the way of Pirates, with Gabuza’s clever movement into the channel between his marker and the right-back gifting him another shooting chance, but he put his left-footed effort over the target in the 55th minute.
From then on it was the Team of Choice who took control of the game and created several good chances. On 68 minutes Van Wyk fired a shot at goal only to be denied by a fine save from Brighton Mhlongo, and shortly thereafter defender Brian Onyango headed over the crossbar from close range.
Perhaps the best chance of the half fell to Rusike in the 85th minute and when he opened his body and looked to curl the ball into the top corner, it seemed destined to break the deadlock. Sadly for the visitors, the ball drifted just wide of the upright, leaving the game to finish 0-0.
Pirates: Mhlongo, Mahamutsa, Gyimah, Gcaba, Matlaba, Rakhale (Mugerwa 77’), Sarr, Memela, Myeni, Ndoro, Gabuza (Motupa 63’)
Maritzburg: Vries, Onyango, Mngonyama, Teyise, Mogapi, Mkhize, Booysen, Lentjies (Van Wyk 44’ [Nale 90+3’]), P. Zulu, D. Mekoa, Rusike