Orlando Pirates frustrated by Highlands

Augustine Mulenga and Luckyboy Mokoena © Backpagepix

Orlando Pirates begin their 2018/19 Absa Premiership campaign with a 1-1 stalemate with Highlands Park at the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday night.

The draw sees the Buccaneers and the Lions of the North move to seventh, and sixth places respectively on the league standings.

The Buccaneers saw most of the ball in the early exchanges with Vincent Pule looking lively on his official debut for the hosts.

However, it was the Lions of the North, who took a surprise lead 14 minutes into the encounter.

Pirates defender Gladwin Shitolo scored an own goal when his teammate and goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands failed to deal with back-pass.

The ball hit the back of the net to make it 1-0 to Highlands, who making their return to the Premier Soccer League (PSL) returnees Highlands Park.

The hosts should have levelled matters in the 22nd minute after the Lions of the North defence was exposed.

However, Highlands goalkeeper Kapuwa Kapiniproduced a great save to deny Pirates striker Augustine Mulenga.

The Buccaneers piled pressure on visitors after the half-hour mark and Paseka Mako missed the target with a low shot in the 35th minute.

Kapini was then beaten three minutes later by Pule'swell-taken free-kick, but the ball hit the crossbar and the Lions of the North survived a scare.

With the Higlands defence looked solid and organised, Pirates were forced to try their luck from range.

Pule, who joined Pirates from Bidvest Wits last month, unleashed a long-range shot which narrowly missed the target in in the 43rd minute.

The score was 1-0 to Highlands, who managed to contain Pirates in the closing stages of the first-half.

Highlands struggled to contain Pirates in the opening stages of the second-half with Augustine Mulenga causing havoc for the visitors' defence.

The Zambian marksman was fouled inside the Highlands box by Lesenya Ramoraka in the 59th minute and Pirates were awarded a penalty.

Second-half substitute Justin Shonga then converted the resultant penalty to make it 1-1 for Pirates - sending the whole Orlando Stadium into wild raptures.

The Buccaneers were now oozing with confidence and Mulenga decided to try his luck from the edge of the Lions of the North box in the 70th minute.

However, Kapini was alert and well-positioned as he made a good save to deny the former Zanaco marksman.

Bucs piled pressure on the visitors defence and Kapini had to pull off a great save to deny Mulenga, who was looking to snatch a late winner with five minutes left.

Highlands managed to contain Pirates in the dying minutes of the game and ultimately, the match ended in a 1-1 stalemate.

Pirates (0) 1 (Shonga 61')

Highlands (1) 1 (Shitolo 14')

Pirates: Sandilands, Jele, Shitolo, Maela, Dube, Mlambo, Nyatama, Lorch (Shonga 55'), Pule (Mahlonoko 88'), Mako (Mahachi 66'), Mulenga.

Highlands: Kapini, Fransman, Motsepe, Mokoena, Ramoraka, Motlafi, Haoseb, Mahlangu, Rae (Msimango 76'), Nyembe (Ngebo 85'), Mbatha (Versuur 73').