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Posted on 28 July 2007  - 12:00

The Vodacom Challenge trophy leaves Africa for the first time tonight after Orlando Pirates were put to the sword in a scintillating first half display at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

The Vodacom Challenge trophy leaves Africa for the first time tonight after Orlando Pirates were put to the sword in a scintillating first half display at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium.Three goals in 21 opening half minutes effectively finished the game as a contest, with Darren Bent netting two of them to make it four goals in as many pre-season starts. His partner in attack Dimitar Berbatov netted the other with a direct assist from our striking signing.

Paul Robinson, Michael Dawson, Steed Malbranque, Didier Zokora and Berbatov returned to the starting line-up for the conclusion of our South African journey in Pretoria.

There was once again great fervour at the home of Rugby Union side Blou Bulls, the Super 14 winners and wearing our blue change strip we got the better of the early stages and a Pascal Chimbonda cross caused some alarm in the Pirates defences, but Bent was unable to make a headed connection. He moments later narrowly failed to take advantage when the bounce deceived Destin Makita, but also proved a little tricky for the striker.

There was a scare at the other end when a Paul Stalteri pass was intercepted by Lucky Lekgwathi, who went on to play a one-two with Lebohang Mokoena before blasting off target.

Attention quickly switched back to the end Pirates were defending and Bent forced a fine one-handed save from Francis Chansa. From the resulting corner lines were not cleared and the ball fell to Bent around ten yards out and he literally ripped the ball home off the bar to make it 1-0 on ten minutes.

Pascal Chimbonda headed just over from an Adel Taarabt corner and moments later shot narrowly off target after combining with Berbatov.

It was only a temporary reprieve for Pirates. Bent dispossessed Makita inside the area and rolled the ball across for Berbatov to apply a simple finish on 18 minutes. In what was almost non-stop attacking, Bent then went on to strike an upright.

A third quickly came and it was a result of superb interchange between Bent and Adel Taarabt, the 18-year-old flicking back in the direction of the forward who then dragged the ball past his marker and stroked into the net with only 22 minutes on the clock.

Bent came close to registering a hat-trick when he sprinted on to a Chimbonda ball down the right and expertly lofted the ball over the goalkeeper, but it bounced agonisingly just a couple of inches wide of the far post.

The boys were putting on the style and this is clearly a strikeforce to be reckoned with - Berbatov oozing his customary class and Bent pacy and clever playing off of him.

Bennet Chenene - who scored the goal that took Pirates to the final - came close to adding to his tally and reducing the deficit just after the half hour mark, shooting just wide of the top right hand corner, with Pirates not simply intent on damage limitation and creating a few further half chances ahead of the interval.

There was changes after the break with Jermaine Jenas taking over from Zokora, Jermain Defoe replacing Bent and Wayne Routledge for Taarabt.

Pirates continued in the lively fashion in which they concluded the first half, but could not deliver an end product, while Defoe was a waspish presence in and around the Buccaneers' back line.

Robbie Keane made his entrance for Tom Huddlestone on 57 minutes, just before substitute Jorry Merahe forced Robinson into his first significant save at full stretch. A Berbatov free-kick kept Chansa on his toes at the other end.

He was nearly caught out, however, by his own player with 20 minutes left on the clock when a teasing Malbranque cross in the direction of Defoe was sliced just past the post by Makita.

It signalled the end of Berbatov's afternoon and the beginning of Teemu Tainio's pre-season. The next goal chance came with with 11 minutes left when Jenas brilliantly teased the ball into the path of Defoe, but Chansa advanced speedily to foil.

Jacques Maghoma then got his first taste of tour action when he took over from the industrious Malbranque. The tempo may have eased up a little in the second half, but it was a case of job done and a trophy in our luggage.