JOHANNESBURG — Olando Pirates striker Benni McCarthy showed he is the man for the big occasion when his two first-half goals sank Kaizer Chiefs in the Soweto derby on Saturday.
Playing in his first Soweto derby, McCarthy continued to show South African football lovers why he won so many accolades playing abroad.
But his teammates almost let him down when they allowed Chiefs back into the game.
An equaliser in the dying minutes would have shattered Pirates after one of their best starts in a long time. By the 24th minute, Chiefs were trailing 3-0 and a thrashing was on the cards.
Pirates caretaker coach Augusto Palacios must be praised for a good game.
“The strategy was to attack them on the wings and to block their fullbacks Jimmy Tau and Keegan Ritchie from going forward. I will be happy if we can play this good type of football and lose a match. We just need to perfect things with our defence,” said Palacios.
Tau and Ritchie are notoriously troublesome on the wings and them sitting back meant Tlou Segolela and Daine Klate had lots of room to manoeuvre.
A rat-a-tat spell early in the first half and McCarthy’s killer instinct left Amakhosi fighting to redeem their pride. Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic’s decision to drop Tinashe Nengomasha backfired.
“Nengomasha is working hard, but the youngsters have been doing very well in the last couple of matches. Maybe Nengomasha can play in the next match against Bloemfontein Celtic.
“The youngsters made mistakes today, but they fought back. Coaches are afraid to play young players and today they had bad and good moments, but I am very proud of their performance,” said Vermezovic.
It was a perfect afternoon for beautiful football, with balmy highveld weather and an immaculate pitch.
Chiefs were caught snoozing by the determined Buccaneers who stunned them as early as the ninth minute when McCarthy rifled home from close range.
The goal came from a rebound from Oupa Manyisa’s shot after some hesitant defending from Chiefs’ back four.
Without Nengomasha and the injured Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Chiefs were strangled in midfield, with young Lucky Baloyi and Willard Katsande no match for Pirates’ Andile Jali and Manyisa.
Jali tackled hard and exploited the hectares given to him. Manyisa was roving in front of the Chiefs defence and easily exchanged passes with Ndumiso Mabena.
Chiefs went forward for an equaliser but opened themselves up, and Jali made it 2-0 after a sweeping move by McCarthy and Segolela.
McCarthy crowned a wonderful day with a well-taken shot from Segolela’s cross on the left in the 24th minute.
Chiefs captain Siphiwe Tshabalala pulled one back with a fine lawn-mower drive in the 33rd minute and action then swung from end to end.
Palacios made a reckless tactical substitution after the half-time break when he replaced striker Mabena with defensive midfielder Thandani Ntshumayelo, leaving the exhausted McCarthy all alone upfront.
Vermezovic’s substitutions were more calculated and Lehlohonolo Majoro reduced the deficit to 3-2 with 20 minutes remaining. It was game on and Amakhosi threw everything forward to stage a dramatic comeback.
But it was too little too late and their dreary first-half performance proved too costly.— Kickoff