One giant had to fall in yesterday’s Soweto derby, but Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates left it all on the Moses Mabhida Stadium pitch in their extended Telkom Knockout quarterfinal.
It took penalty kicks to separate the township rivals, upping the anticipation leading to the titans’ league fixture at FNB Stadium.
Yesterday’s cup clash, which Chiefs clinched for a spot in the semifinals of the Ziwa More competition, was a thrilling affair that belied the contrasting tales of the two powerhouses so far this season.
However, Bucs succumbing to their bitter rivals in the end summed up the story of coach Rulani Mokwena, who has endured a mixed bag of outcomes since he assumed his role in a caretaker capacity.
Wins have been hard to come by for the young coach, while his seasoned counterpart, Ernst Middendorp, has enjoyed a solid start to the season.
Bernard Parker kicked his Chiefs into the last four of the Telkom Knockout following a dramatic shoot-out that saw the Bucs duo of Ben Motshwari and Abel Mabaso having their spot kicks saved by Chiefs goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi.
Daniel Cardoso, Khama Billiat and Lebogang Manyama converted their kicks as well, while Happy Jele and Gabadinho Mhango were successful for Pirates.
Still, like the past few PSL games, yesterday’s match was a litany of botched calls by match officials, which almost overshadowed the action as there was tension from the onset.
Drama unfolded in a spell that lasted nearly 15 minutes in the opening half, and more followed the action all the way into extra time.
It started when Chiefs had a legitimate goal disallowed after assistant referee Zakhele Siwela flagged Samir Nurkovic’s headed effort for an offside.
It was a tight call, considering that the Serbian attacker had made a timely run when he connected with the ball, well in line with the Pirates defenders.
Then Bucs’ Vincent Pule had his effort bounce off the upright before his team-mate Thembinkosi Lorch escaped with just a caution when the tiny winger appeared to have stamped on Chiefs’ Billiat.
However, referee Jelly Chavani had no choice but to dismiss Pirates defender Mthokozisi Dube for a second bookable offence, which left his side with 10 men for 40 minutes of regulation time.
Despite a free-flowing game, tempers were so high that the two teams came close to blows when Chiefs players confronted Lorch over the stamping incident.
Amid the drama, Lorch emerged like a slap in the face for Amakhosi when he engineered his side’s opening goal, which was converted by Fortune Makaringe.
The tiny Bafana Bafana midfielder was also at the centre of a missed penalty call when he was brought down by Chiefs goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi.
It was game on in the second half, and Leonardo Castro levelled the scores shortly after the break.
A flurry of goals followed when Daniel Cardoso handed Amakhosi an advantage from the penalty spot before substitute Mhango equalised.
It was left to the two penalty shoot-outs to decide the winner and Parker’s spot kick ended his side’s four-year winless run over Pirates.
It remains to be seen whether the football gods will smile on Mokwena in the follow-up derby on Saturday.
Meanwhile, with their win yesterday, Chiefs joined Maritzburg United in the semis after the KwaZulu-Natal outfit advanced 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw with Highlands Park on Friday night.
In the last jostle for the remaining berth in the derby, Chippa United will host Mamelodi Sundowns at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth this afternoon. The game kicks off at 3pm.
Chiefs won 4-2 on penalties