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On the verge of a fifth cup final in a row later next month, the Buccaneers were held to a 1-1 draw at home against AmaZulu last night, putting further pressure on coach Vladimir Vermezovic as Pirates are yet to win an Absa Premiership match.
Having brushed off Bidvest Wits in the first leg of their MTN8 semifinal on Sunday, Vermezovic didn't tinker with his starting line-up and expected continuity as his men welcomed Usuthu to Soweto.
AmaZulu spent much of the first half absorbing the pressure until former Pirates forward Bongani Ndulula was hacked in the box by Rooi Mahamutsa, whose attempt at a pass in the penalty box went horribly wrong. The defender couldn't recover and was too late in his tackle on Ndulula, who got up to convert the spot kick in the 27th minute and give Craig Rosslee's men a shock lead.
It was utility defender Thabo Matlaba who again bailed Pirates out, finding the equaliser on the hour mark. Like he had surged forward against Wits days earlier, the left-back finished off a well- orchestrated attack started by substitute Sifiso Myeni.
Ndulula had hoped to spoil the party. He put the knife in during a league opener between the two clubs last season at FNB Stadium, setting up a roller-coaster tenure for then coach Roger de Sa, who was replaced by Vermezovic in February. In August last year, Ndulula only had one chance and buried it.
He was hard done-by seconds before the halftime break when referee Lwandile Mfiki did not award him a second penalty. Only ever a threat in patches, Ndulula took out two Pirates defenders and just when he had made space to shoot, was brought down - yet again by Mahamutsa. Mfiki blew his whistle - to caution the striker for simulation. Pirates were let off the hook, but recovered superbly when their patient build-up ensured they drew level.
Vermezovic did finally give Lehlohonolo Majoro more than just five minutes for the first time this season, but the striker is quite rusty. He could have sealed victory in the 85th minute, but keeper Tapuwa Kapini was able to thwart him.