Fadlu Davids described this ABSA Premiership clash as being like a game of chess, as his Maritzburg United side looked to stop an in-form Orlando Pirates outfit, whilst Milutin Sredojevic's men needed a win to open up some ground at the top of the PSL. However, despite having lots of the ball, the game ended 0-0.
We take a look at five tactical aspects in this stalemate:
Pule and Mulenga High and Wide
Pirates lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Maritzburg’s 3-5-2. The coaching duo of Sredojevic and Rulani Mokwena identified that there would be space behind the wingbacks and by pulling the centre-backs into the channels. Pushing Augustine Mulenga and Vincent Pule high up on the flanks allowed them to exploit this space. This worked very well in the early stages as it drew Maritzburg's centre-backs wide and opened space for Theminkosi Lorch and Justin Shonga in central positions.
Against the excellent Mpho Makola and Musa Nyatama, Maritzburg used a three-man central midfield and the trio did a good job, but Nyatama still had a sublime game, getting himself out of danger on several occasions when being closed down. He created two chances and made 73 passes (88% accuracy) despite being outnumbered in this area. He is now reaching his superb form of last season.
Pirates started on fire
In the first 20 minutes, Pirates were outstanding and had seven shots and had 134 passes to Maritzburg’s 54 in that period. Shonga had one clear chance after being played through by Mulenga and Bucs really should have gone 1-0 up after this fast start, which would have drawn Maritzburg out and given them more space to attack.
Bucs Went for Broke
With the game at 0-0 late on, Pirates through on Thabiso Kutumela, Thabo Qalinge and Paseka Mako to try to break down The Team of Choice. With so many attacking players on the pitch, they opened themselves up to a possible smash and grab and Maritzburg missed a great late chance through Rushine De Reuck. Pirates could potentially have added Qalinge and Mako with longer to go as they each only played 10 minutes each. Pirates only managed two shots between the 78th and 95th minutes.
Maritzburg and Ofori Defended Well
In goal, Richard Ofori was outstanding for Fadlu Davids’ team, making some fine saves and also showing great presence in the box to claim crosses and anticipate balls across goal. De Reuck was especially superb too, winning three aerial duels and making 15 clearances. Pirates only had two shots on target inside the box and Micho credited Maritzburg for their excellent defensive work.
Can Orlando Pirates beat Sundowns to the title with their issues against teams defending in numbers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.