The dull Soweto derby is a thing relegated to recent history if the past week’s action, and Saturday’s 3-2 Absa Premiership win to Kaizer Chiefs in another thriller against Orlando Pirates at FNB Stadium on Saturday, are anything to go by.
The deafening noise that greeted the final whistle, the singing of the Chiefs’ fans, was not just to a victory to their team, but in tribute to a magnificent derby.
This was the definition of end-to-end. Ntsikelelo Nyauza’s own goal in the first minute saw Bucs a goal down, and the action did not let up from there.
Leonard Castro headed in Chiefs’ second in the 28th before Vincent Pule (39th) and Gabadinho Mhango 59th brought matters to 2-2 with two scorchers.
Daniel Cardoso’s penalty, after substitute Bernard Parker was brought down, earned Chiefs an 84th-minute winner.
Chiefs ended with 10 men as Eric Mathoho was sent off by referee Thando Ndzandzeka after a scuffle in injury time.
Pirates might feel aggrieved at the result. Their opener they conceded was a nothing goal, and they struck the woodwork three times. Chiefs, though, probably spent longer periods of the game on the front foot.
This is how the derby should be played. This is what the fans have packed two stadiums on successive weekends for.
Moses Mabhida in Durban for last week’s penalties Telkom Knockout win to Chiefs after a 2-2 thriller, then FNB yesterday, produced nine goals in two memorable games.
That is three more than six derbies produced (six goals) in two years from November 2015 to October 2017.
In fact, confirming that the derby is alive and well again, the six matches since that barren spell, including this week’s two, have produced 20 goals.
But these two have been particularly good. The contrasting styles of Chiefs’ directness and Pirates’ skill and flair have been blended into a strong and tasty cocktail.
Pirates coach Rulani Mokwena had a problem in his defence to solve. Bucs had struggled to contain Chiefs’ aggressive attack in Durban, where right-back Mthokozisi Dube was red-carded. Captain and centreback Happy Jele was then dismissed in their midweek 0-0 home draw against Maritzburg United.
Instead of risking Alfred Ndengane, who had been dropped for shakiness, Mokwena brought left-back Innocent Maela inside to partner Nyauza, who has also been converted from a right-back.
The two-fullback central partnership could not have gotten off to a worse start in the game, with a comedy of errors leading to the opener.
Inside the first minute Maela received an aerial ball on the edge of his area on the right and his header looped backwards towards Nyauza. Nyauza appeared to try to head to Wayne Sandilands, but somehow misconnected over the advancing goalkeeper and into his own net.
Bucs almost equalised within moments, as Fortune Makaringe’s drive struck the upright.
But Pirates had put themselves under pressure conceding so softly, and Chiefs onto the front foot.