A do-or-die battle awaits, as Mamelodi Sundowns play host to Orlando Pirates in the MTN8 semifinal second leg on Saturday afternoon. The Buccaneers are hoping to overcome the Brazilians for the first time since 2020.
One will recall, it was just before football was suspended due to Covid-19, when Ezimnyama Ngenkani last got the better of the Tshwane giants thanks to Gabadinho Mhango’s first-half strike. Thereafter, their fortunes against Masandawana suffered a steep decline. The question now is, can Pirates end their unwanted run against Sundowns?
Since then, the duo have faced off seven times across all competitions, with Bafana Ba Stye grabbing five wins, while two games ended in stalemates.
However, earlier this month, their first leg of the MTN8, which took place in front of a sold-out crowd at Orlando Stadium, saw Pirates denying to kneel before the defending champions. Downs uncharacteristically failed to register a single shot on target.
Heading to the second tie, many football enthusiasts believe the odds are in favour of Pirates to come out victorious through the away goal advantage, since Downs couldn’t seize one in Soweto.
But now Jose Riveiro’s charges have only scored three goals in their last five outings. If they struggle to rattle the back of the net against the lowly teams, can they really score goals against the last season’s treble winners? Well, a cup match, especially against Sundowns, should spur them on in front of goal. Now at least they can count on Kermit Erasmus, who has a point to prove against Downs who let him go this past transfer window.
Meanwhile, Kabo Yellow, the defending champions of MTN8, won’t just simply hand over the trophy. They have the personnel to dismantle the so-called Pirates’ solid defence, and their CAF Champions League experience of playing under pressure will come into play.
They haven’t lost in their last seven games, and seem to have found their feet after enduring a mixed start to the new season. Their squad depth is arguably unmatched in the league, and they will certainly pick their best team from that squad.
For Pirates, Vincent Pule, Thembinkosi Lorch, Goodman Mosele, Richard Ofori, and Bandile Shandu are all doubtful for the match.
On Masandawana’s side, the injury concerns are Brian Onyango, Terrence Mashego, Sifiso Ngobeni, Abubeker Nasir, and Erwin Saavedra.
MTN8 Semifinal match details:
Mamelodi Sundowns vs Orlando Pirates
Kick Off – 15:30
Venue – New Peter Mokaba Stadium