The two teams and officials observe a moment of silence for those who have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Then, there is applause for the frontline workers.
Victor Gomes is this evening’s referee. One of Africa’s stalwarts, he is the man for the big occasion — at times temperamental, but never intimidated.
Ngoma and Seabi are out with quad injuries for Sundowns, while Ngcongca has a back injury. This is all according to the club. Ngcongca has, of course, been linked with a possible move back to Belgium. Morena is also injured and Sirino suspended.
Mamelodi Sundowns have shown faith in young Keletso Makgalwa and Sphelele Mkhulise, handing them starting berths, while former Buccaneer Andile Jali is on the bench. Jali had a poor game the last time Sundowns faced Pirates.
Lorch and Shonga have been ruled out for Orlando Pirates after being excluded from the camp due to breaching protocols, while Memela, who set up Mhango's winner last time these teams played, is on the bench.
MAMELODI SUNDOWNS XI: Onyango, Madisha, Nascimento, Lebusa, Lakay, Coetzee, Mkhulise, Kekana (c), Makgalwa, Zwane, Maboe. SUBS: Mweene, Vilakazi, Mkhuma, Mabunda, Meza, Jali, Langerman, Lukhubeni, Arendse.
ORLANDO PIRATES XI: Sandilands, Jele (c), Nyauza, Maela, Mabaso, Motshwari, Makaringe, Pule, Mako, Mulenga, Mhango. SUBS: Delle, Ndengane, Zungu, Mntambo, Mlambo, Memela, Dlamini, Monyane, Mabasa.
Hello and welcome to our live coverage as Absa Premiership football returns with Mamelodi Sundowns hosting Orlando Pirates at an empty Dobsonville Stadium.
KICK-OFF! Victor Gomes blows his whistle and Mamelodi Sundowns kick off. They are technically the hosts due to the reallocation of venues in the biological safe environment, but the game is in Soweto, the home of Pirates.
Sundowns were restricted to a long ball game in the last match against Pirates, but they look more enterprising this evening so far.
Kekana plays the long ball out right to Zwane, whose cross is aimed at Makgalwa, but that is cut out.
Makgalwa gives the ball to Lakay, looking to tee him up to either shoot or move the ball on inside the box. It’s taken off the former Cape Town City man.
Mulenga and Lebusa are involved in a tangle. The foul goes Lebusa’s way. Mulenga apologises and Lebusa accepts. Good sportsmanship.
Kekana is a midfielder who doesn’t shy away from the defensive side of the game. This evening, it seems he is defending from the front, pressing high.
Kekana spots Makgalwa’s run and plays a long ball down the left flank. Makgalwa is quick and chases it down, but he fails to weave his way through the defence alone. Numbers were needed in support.
At the other end, Nascimento puts in an important challenge to dispossess Mhango. The Brazilian recently signed a contract extension with the club nicknamed “the Brazilians”.
Mako puts in a clumsy challenge on Maboe. Nothing more than a foul. He is fortunate to escape a yellow card.
Mhango puts in a free-kick, which Onyango collects. It was likely intended as a cross, not a shot. That wasn’t entirely clear. Either way, it didn’t come off.
CHANCE! Sundowns win the ball as Pirates look to counter. Mkhulise crosses for Zwane, who forces Sandilands to tip behind at the near post.
Lakay’s corner finds Lebusa, but the former Ajax defender has fouled Nyauza in the process of meeting it. Pirates get the free-kick.
Kekana goes for another long ball, but it’s overhit again. Sandilands collects.
Time for a cooling break. Sundowns have been the better of the two sides so far, but there haven’t been many chances.
Play resumes with a Pirates throw-in. We saw the former Buccaneers coach, Rhulani Mokwena, giving instructions to Sundowns alongside Pitso Mosimane. He is back at the club where he made his name, assisting the former Bafana coach again.
Pule looks to pick out Mhango with the ball into the danger area, but that goes behind for a goal-kick.
Orlando Pirates look as if they are hoping to catch Sundowns out with a swift counter at some point. They have tried the move a few times.
Sundowns have had three attempts at goal so far, while Pirates haven’t had one yet. It has been a cagey encounter.
Sundowns have got quite a few crosses in from their right flank. Few have posed a real problem for Sandilands so far.
Mabaso’s cross-cum-shot is hit with some power, but Onyango holds on.
Lovely skill from Kekana inside the Pirates box. He appeals for a handball call against Jele as he loses possession, but Gomes is unmoved. That will be a major talking point!
At the other end, Motshwari goes for goal, but he misses the target.
Pule has a shot at goal under pressure with his weaker right foot, but fires wide of the near post.
HALF-TIME: SUNDOWNS 0-0 PIRATES. It’s been a cagey encounter at Dobsonville Stadium. The penalty appeal against Jele has been the major talking point so far. No score and very few clear chances as of yet.
Coetzee puts in a late challenge on Mhango. Free-kick, but once again, no yellow card. Victor Gomes can’t be faulted for consistency.
Pule has another go on the half-volley, but it’s not the strongest of shots. Onyango holds on.
Into four minutes of stoppage time we go at the end of the first half.
KICK-OFF! Pirates get the second half underway. They have brought Memela on in place of Mulenga. Perhaps the man from Mbekweni can find the killer pass again.
Pule goes for goal again — this time from long range with his left foot. He miscues again and fires over the target.
On a couple of occasions since half-time, Sundowns have gone for the ball over the top of the Pirates defence. Sandilands has been alert to the danger and cut it out on both occasions.
Mhango picks up the first yellow card of the game for catching Madisha with his elbow while rising for the header.
Sundowns allow the ball to bounce in their box, but Gomes blows his whistle and Masandawana have won a free-kick.
Zwane picks up a yellow card for a late challenge on Makaringe in the middle of the park. Makaringe, of course, incensed Pitso Mosimane with his showboating the last time these teams met.
POST! Makaringe surges forward, combining with Memela, and strikes the woodwork. Onyango might have got a touch. Madisha scrambles the ball away to avoid a follow-up shot.
Kekana tries a trademark long-range strike. He has embarrassed former Sundowns teammate Sandilands in the past, but this shot flies over the target.
At the other end, Nyauza has a go at goal from distance, but he also fails to hit the target. Lakay is replaced by Jali for Sundowns.
Mkhulise looks to weave his way through inside the box. Zwane picks up the ball as it gets stuck at the youngster’s feet and backheels. Nobody is up in support. Cleared behind.
Memela has made an impact since coming on for Pirates, showcasing his creativity.
Makgalwa just strays offside as he gets on the end of a long ball.
It’s the magic Pirates combination again. This time, Mhango tees up Memela for the shot. Onyango makes a good save to deny him.
SAVE! Pule looks to catch Onyango off guard with a long-range looping effort. Onyango tips over the crossbar!
Time for another cooling break. The game is just beginning to heat up.
Langerman replaces Lebusa and Meza comes on for Makgalwa. Double Sundowns substitution. Play is back underway.
CHANCE! Mhango’s free-kick delivery picks out Nyauza. He looks certain to head home, but misses the target! Too high!
Pirates have had the better of the second half so far. Every point dropped by Sundowns is a chance missed to keep the pressure on Kaizer Chiefs at the top. Chiefs led by four points having played one more game than Sundowns prior to this match.
Meza wins a foul in the middle of the park. He sprints forward immediately in preparation for the free-kick. He looks hungry to make an impact.
Pule receives a yellow card now for a foul on Maboe.
Coetzee aims an outswinging cross in the direction of Meza at the far post. Mabaso does enough to put the latter off.
At the other end, Mako finds himself through on goal but a superb last-ditch recovery tackle from Madisha takes the ball off him just before he pulls the trigger!
Tempers flare between the two sides. Gomes orders the Sundowns players to move. Coetzee picks up a yellow card for a trip on Mhango.
After all that fuss, Mhango fires the free-kick straight into Madisha, who is down holding his face.
Monyane and Zungu come on in place of Mabaso and Pule. It’s a Pirates debut for Zungu. Arendse replaces Madisha for Sundowns and Vilakazi is on for Zwane.
FULL-TIME: SUNDOWNS 0-0 PIRATES. It was a game of two halves at Dobsonville Stadium. Sundowns had the better of the first, while Pirates dominated the second. We finish as we started.
Kekana tries an audacious shot from inside his own half. No problem for Sandilands, who holds on easily.
On comes Mabasa in place of Mhango in a late Pirates substitution.
We are into five minutes minimum of stoppage time. There have been several breaks in play recently.