Orlando Pirates have joined SuperSport United and Free State Stars in the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup after claiming a stunning 2-0 win away to Mamelodi Sundowns at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday night.
Despite playing much of the match – which went to extra time – with 10 men following the dismissal of defender Edwin Gyimah, the Buccaneers put up a heroic performance to end the Brazilians’ reign as cup champions, with Tendai Ndoro and Mpho Makola landing the knockout punches.
The last semifinalist will be determined on Sunday when Polokwane City and National First Division side Baroka FC battle in a Limpopo derby.
The first half’s standout feature was an ongoing battle between ‘Downs attacker Khama Billiat and Bucs defender Edwin Gyimah, with the latter looking to impose himself physically on the former and earning himself a silly yellow card within the first few minutes.
Gyimah’s intimidation tactics did not stop the home side from dominating proceedings, though it was only late in the first half that they really called Pirates goalkeeper Brighton Mhlongo into significant action, with the youngster pulling off a fine save to keep out a powerful drive from Leonardo Castro.
Ten minutes into the second half Mhlongo was again at the centre of attention as he palmed away a Billiat shot which looked destined for the back of the net, keeping his side on level terms as they struggled to contain a Brazilians team full of movement and intelligent passing.
With just under 20 minutes of regulation time left, the inevitable happened: Gyimah slid in recklessly on Billiat, took out the Zimbabwean without winning the ball and was shown a second yellow card – his dismissal left the Buccaneers having to play out the remainder of the match with a numerical disadvantage.
The Soweto giants missed a great opportunity to break the deadlock in the 77th minute, with midfielder Issa Sarr arriving unmarked to meet a free kick but he was unable to direct a diving header on target.
Just under 10 minutes later Mhlongo was again a hero for Pirates, first coming quickly off his line to deny substitute Cuthbert Malajila in a one-on-one situation before giving away a free kick for a foul on Keagan Dolly. Hlompho Kekana then shot on goal from the set piece, but Mhlongo was once more equal to the task.
The match went to extra time and Sundowns’ dominance was even more pronounced, with Pirates sitting back in defence and looking to soak up whatever the hosts could throw at them. It looked like the lottery of penalties would be their only path to victory.
However, in the 110th minute a long diagonal pass out of defence saw the tireless Tendai Ndoro – who had fed off scraps even when his team had their full compliment of players – run in between Sundowns’ centre-backs and provide a wonderful left-footed finish to make it 1-0 to Bucs.
Four minutes later Ndoro turned provider, keeping his calm in the penalty area when he seemed to have no support before teeing up a perfect pass for Mpho Makola’s late run – the midfielder duly finished off the chance to make it 2-0.