Transfer-seeking Luka Modric captained Tottenham Hotspur as they drew 1-1 with Orlando Pirates today in the second match of the Vodacom Challenge series. The Croatian playmaker has been the target of two £20m-plus offers from London rivals Chelsea, with both rejected by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who insists no stars are leaving White Hart Lane.
It was Modric's first pre-season appearance after an ankle injury ruled him out of a 1-0 defeat by Kaizer Chiefs last Saturday. The 25-year-old came off on 60 minutes as Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp rang the second-half changes before a smaller-than-expected 25,000 crowd at Mbombela Stadium, with cold weather and a petrol strike keeping many spectators away.
Rafael van der Vaart gave the English outfit a 17th-minute lead when he curled a free-kick from just outside the penalty area around a defensive wall and over goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa into the roof of the net.
Slow-to-click Pirates levelled five minutes before half-time, when fullback Happy Jele unleashed an angled shot from the edge of the box that flew across recently-signed goalkeeper Brad Friedel and into the far corner of the net.
Although winless after two matches in South Africa, Tottenham are guaranteed a place in the Johannesburg final this weekend as the 'guest' club, leaving Pirates and Chiefs to clash on Thursday in coastal city Port Elizabeth for the right to meet them.
Pirates had every reason to be wary of the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League quarter-finalists, who finished fifth in the Premier League last term and were forced to settle for a place in the UEFA Europa League.
Spurs hammered the Buccaneers 3-0 to win the Vodacom Challenge four years ago, and the early exchanges hinted at another convincing win for the Londoners as their direct approach created openings.
Gareth Bale was particularly dangerous and came close on six minutes, when he outpaced several adversaries only to misconnect with the ball after cutting in.
Meyiwa did well to tip over a Bale free-kick from almost an identical position from which Van der Vaart scored, and after Pirates equalised against the run of play, Bongani Ndlula had a first-half stoppage-time goal ruled out for offside.
Siyabonga Sangweni cleared a chip from substitute Niko Krancjar off the line on 62 minutes, and a superb Michael Dawson tackle foiled Oupa Manyisa when he was poised to snatch a late winner.