Teenager Foster gets off the bench to save Pirates against Polokwane City
In a matchup that emphasised the tight nature of this most closely-contested Absa Premiership season, Polokwane City took Orlando Pirates to within three minutes of normal time of a home defeat at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.
Debutant signing Dominic Chungwa put City ahead in the 19th minute, and it was left to substitute Lyle Foster to equalise in the 87th of an absorbing 1-1 draw.
If any match this weekend has displayed the strides made in the PSL, this was it.
Smaller teams have tended to travel to big sides, when not playing to frustrate, fired up to throw everything at them. It was a hit and, more often, miss tactic.
Polokwane came to Orlando with a plan, and calmly applied it. Not intimidated, they at times bossed the game with patient, upright defending and smooth passing.
In the end, it was only Pirates' edge in player quality, their perseverance plugging away at resolute opposition,own tactical discipline, and a perhaps too cautious second-half approach by City that saw Bucs salvage a draw.
Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic unsurprisingly kept his starting lineup from the inspired 3-1 victory against Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld last weekend.
That XI had shown just one enforced change - Mpho Makola coming in for suspended Thabo Matlaba - from the previous win by the same score here against Baroka.
Polokwane's dark horse coach Bernard Molekwa made four changes from his team's 2-1 defeat against Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium. Ndivuvhuwo Ravhuhali, Thapelo Tshilo, Edgar Manaka and Chungwa replaced Simphiwe Hlongwane, Sibusiso Mbonani and Lorence Vilakazi and Rendani Ndou.
This was the second game of the day delayed by a few minutes (eight). Cape Town City's 1-0 win against Ajax at Cape Town Stadium had faced ticket issues. This match had a goal-net not properly fixed to the post, quickly tied with some rope by a grounds staff member.
Once it started, it was an intoxicating, fascinating contest.
Pirates tried to stamp their authority early, Justin Shonga finding space on the edge of the area to strike cleanly, George Chigova having to palm for a corner.
Polokwane, though, showed no signs of awe at their surroundings or opposition. They took the ball calmly off Pirates when the homes side ventured forward, then moved it with confidence.
In a sustained period of pressure, from a second corner in quick succession, Jabulani Maluleke's delivery found new Zimbabwean signing Chungwa, who announced his PSL arrival with an eye-catching, powerful header past Jackson Mabokgwane.
City's calmness on the ball only seemed to grow after the goal. It bordered on domination - with a touch of admirable arrogance - as Rise and Shine looked like they were the big, home team.
Pirates had to fight for their chances, Mthokizisi Dube beating Walter Maponyane into the area and seeing a shot blocked.
Bucs ended the half pressing more convincingly, Luvuyo Memela striking one from the left that was well dealt with by Chigova.
Pirates tried to continue to flex their superior player muscle in the second half. But they ran into the same calm shape and ability to steal possession from the feet of attackers.
Bucs did manage to elicit some rare panic from the visitors when, after a scramble in the area, Shonga's swerving shot from was cleared off the line by Ravhuhali in the 80th.
And Bucs did deserve something form this game too.
From a scrap in the box the ball ricocheted off Thembinkosi Losrch's knees to fellow replacement Foster, who turned and finished into the roof of the net.
Other PSL weekend results:
Friday, 19 January 2018:
Bidvest Wits 1 - 0 Bloemfontein Celtic
Saturday, 20 January 2018:
Cape Town City 1 - 0 Ajax Cape Town
Free State Stars 0 - 3 Maritzburg United
Mamelodi Sundowns 3 - 0 Platinum Stars
Orlando Pirates 1 - 1 Polokwane City