Pirates huff and puff their way to a draw
Orlando Pirates have their work cut out for them if they are to win a third successive Absa Premiership title.
Based on yesterday's goalless draw against visitors AmaZulu, the Buccaneers' fans would be forgiven for thinking their beloved team have put all their eggs in one basket - the African Champions League, which kicks off in February.
They were booted out in the first round of the continental club tournament last season.
Yesterday, they offered little going forward in the first half and Usuthu were not bothered either.
The KwaZulu-Natal side - basement-dwellers since the start of the season - were happy to get a point from this fixture, which they were expected to lose.
The Buccaneers only had tame shots at goal in the first 45 minutes and clearly missed Andile Jali's bite. The midfielder was serving a one-match suspension after receiving his fourth yellow card of the season and was forced to sit this league encounter out.
Pirates coach Roger de Sa made two changes to the starting 11 that beat Black Leopards 2-0 in the Telkom Knockout at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane last week. Daine Klate was sacrificed for Ndumiso Mabena, while Jali was replaced by Mpho Makola.
Rotating the squad just a little, even though it was forced in some instances, seems to be keeping Pirates from being a consistent side.
As much as the Buccaneers were buzzing against Pretoria University when they defeated the PSL rookies 3-1 three weeks ago, they looked flat and on the same level as the relegation-threatened team here yesterday.
Credit must go to AmaZulu goalkeeper Philani Zikalala, though.
The Usuthu goal-minder had the game of his life.
He first denied Bucs' speedy striker Tlou Segolela, who had replaced Makola in the second half, by pushing the winger's effort over the bar for a corner kick.
Then he pulled off similar acrobatics to prevent Oupa Manyisa's trademark long-range shot from finding the net. He was an imposing figure in his own box each time Pirates threatened to score.
So beleaguered AmaZulu coach Roger Palmgren is safe, at least until their next match which is a Telkom Knockout home game against Mamelodi Sundowns.
In the other league game yesterday, Pretoria University continued their unbelievable run when they defeated Bloemfontein Celtic 2-1 at Free State Stadium.
Pirates move to third on the table, four points behind leaders Kaizer Chiefs and two adrift of second-placed AmaTuks.
But Usuthu are still rooted to the bottom of the standings. They were at least worth a point on the road yesterday.