Orlando Pirates may have come away with just a point from their trip to Zimbabwe for their Total CAF Champions league Group B encounter but the Sea Robbers must have been pleasantly surprised to discover that they have a massive following north of the Limpopo.
The Buccaneers enjoyed huge support from the sell-out crowd that thronged the 40 000-seater Barbourfields Stadium and someone could have been forgiven for thinking that they were the home team as the crowd not only gave them a vociferous welcome when they emerged from the tunnel but most of their build-ups were met with wild cheers.
Enjoying the lion’s share of support from the fans did not, however, translate to total dominance in the field of play as the first half was a balanced affair with both teams displaying a good brand of possession football but with little goal-mouth action.
FC Platinum settled earlier but their keeper Petros Mhari was the busier of the two goalkeepers duringthe first half as the visitors showed more intent to find the opener.
Mhari was called into action as early as the ninth minute when he parried a Justin Shonga effort back into play and went on to make three more crucial saves to keep matters level at the break.
Pirates’ Zimbabwean attacking midfielder Kuda Mahachi was a bundle of energy in the first half when he made a rare start for the Buccaneers after putting up some good performances of late.
Mahachi’s industry failed to bear fruit though as the Platinum defence was unyielding throughout the match and the Warriors midfielder failed to last the distance and eventually made way for Vincent Pule late in the second half.
The second half was a continuation of the first with both teams keeping the ball well but with no urgency in the final third leading to Pirates bringing in Augustine Mulenga for Shonga.
That change did not result in the desired effect as the visitors’ attack became even more jaded.
As it became clear that the match was heading towards a goalless stalemate the fervour that had gripped the terraces cooled down just as the blazing heat that had engulfed the city of Bulawayo at kickoff.
Just as they did in the first half, Pirates ended the second stanza with a flurry of attacks as they tried to snatch the winner at the dearth but it was not to be as Mhari again pulled out a series of saves to earn his side a point.
Yesterday’s result means that all the teams in Group B are sitting on a point each after holders Espérance of Tunisia were held to a 1-1 draw by Horoya Athletic Club of Guinea.
On Friday Mamelodi lost the Group A opening match 2-1 to Lobi Stars of Nigeria through goals from Yaya Kone who scored a penalty in the 45th minute and Mathias Samuel Martins in the 52nd after Anthony Laffor had given ’Downs the lead in the 38th minute.
They host Moroccan giants Wydad Casablanca at Lucas Moripe Stadium at the 9pm kickoff on Saturday.