Saturday Aug 14, 2021. 20:27
Orlando Pirates, the reigning MTN8 title holders, have been knocked out of the 2021 edition at the quarterfinal stage after succumbing 2-1 at home to Soweto rivals Swallows FC on Saturday.
The match at Orlando Stadium saw the Birds take early control through a brace from Ruzaigh Gamildien, and hold out at the death against a Buccaneers outfit which never really found their rhythm in the teams’ first competitive match of the new season.
Swallows started the stronger of the two teams, finding their passing range and movement much earlier than their hosts. The Birds were duly rewarded in the 16th minute when Gamildien opened the scoring with a fine strike direct from a free kick – Pirates goalkeeper Richard Ofori got a hand on the shot but was unable to keep it out.
Seven minutes later Swallows doubled their advantage: Ofori came way off his line and successfully beat Dillon Solomons to a ball, before the Birds debutant robbed the ‘keeper of possession and allowed Gamildien to score with a long-range effort into an unguarded net.
Pirates soon gave themselves a lifeline, with Deon Hotto earning a penalty in a challenge with countryman and Swallows goalkeeper Virgil Vries. Dlamini expertly converted the spot kick to pull a goal back on the half-hour mark.
The first half ended 2-1 in favour of the visitors, while the second opened with both teams making a double change: Pirates swapped out their fullbacks to bring on Bandile Shandu and veteran Happy Jele, while Swallows attackers Solomons and Khetukuthula Ndlovu made way for Monnapule Saleng and Keletso Makgalwa.
The Birds’ Makgalwa had the ball in the back of the net on the hour mark after a mazy run and exchange of passes with Saleng, but the offside flag cut short his celebrations.
Midway through the second half Pirates created a fine chance to level the game, with Hotto chesting down Tebogo Tlolane’s cross, only to skew an effort well wide of the mark when he had only the ‘keeper to beat.
Bucs were able to take control of the game and dominate possession, with Swallows happy to sit deep and trust their defence to see out the result. Their faith was not misplaced, with centre-backs Wandisile Letlabika and Junaid Sait doing a great job in ensuring Vries did not have a significant save to make in the final quarter of the match.
The Birds were able to see out a 2-1 win and join Golden Arrows (who defeated SuperSport United earlier in the day) in the semifinals, with the last two berths set to be decided by Sunday’s matches: Mamelodi Sundowns v Kaizer Chiefs and AmaZulu v Cape Town City.
Orlando Pirates (1) 1 (Dlamini 30’ pen)
Swallows FC (2) 2 (Gamildien 16’ 23’)
Pirates: Ofori, Jooste (Shandu 46’), Nyauza, Hlatshwayo, Sam (Jele 46’), Makaringe, Mabaso (Ndlovu 81’), Dlamini (Mhango 81’), Tlolane (Dzvukamanja 68’), Hotto, Pule
Swallows: Vries, Mere, Letlabika, Sait, Matlaba, Mokoena (Mbokoma 84’), Nyatama, Matlou (Wambi 84’), Solomons (Saleng 46’), Ndlovu (Makgalwa 46’), Gamildien (Sibiya 87’)