Johannesburg – Defending champions Orlando Pirates reduced Kaizer Chiefs’ lead on the Premiership table to just one point following the Buccaneers’ 2-0 victory over Wits at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.
Defender Thabo Matlaba’s first half rocket just outside the centre circle and substitute Tlou Segolela’s intelligent chip ensured victory for Pirates.
Siyabonga Sangweni’s return from injury proved key to Pirates’ win as the defender played a key role in central defence, keeping the menacing Calvin Kadi at bay.
Collins Mbesuma, nearly broke the deadlock as early as the seventh minute taking advantage of a mistake by the Wits goalkeeper Ryan Harrison. Having done everything right, the bulky striker’s final touch was a disappointing as he fired wide off goal.
In the 10th minute, Sifiso Myeni gifted Mbesuma a chance to makeup for his earlier miss, but the striker failed to read the pass well and the Students survived another scare.
Against the run of play in the 32nd minute, defender Matlaba unleashed a thunderbolt just outside the centre circle, which left Harrison clutching in thin air to give the Bucs a 1-0 lead.
Wits retaliated by launching a quick counter attack in the 37th minute but Sibusiso Vilakazi fired wide of Senzo Meyiwa’s goal much to the disappointment of the Wits bench.
Mbesuma was unfortunate not to add a second for the hosts when a defensive mix-up gifted the Zambian a chance but Harrison recovered well to deny the striker from close range.
Harrison again came to the rescue of the Students, acrobatically denying Mbesuma who did well to fire at gaol from an awkward angle in the 40thminute sending the Bucs into halftime with a narrow 1-0 lead when it could have been more.
The start of the second half was not different from the first as Wits stuck to their pressure absorbing game plan and looking for counter attacks, Pirates also continued with their passing game and long range attempts.
After a quiet night by his standards, Kadi broke way from the Pirates defence in the 46th minute and passed the ball through Sangweni’s legs to Vilakazi who turned well before setting up Ofentse Nato, but Meyiwa put his body on the line to deny the Botswana international from point blank.
Wits will feel hard done by the referee after he denied them what looked like a legitimate penalty appeal in 55th minute when Kadi showed Sangweni a clean pair of heals, but the Pirates defender brought the striker down inside the box, which the ref ignored. With action swaying from one end to the other without any scares for both teams, Roger de Sa decided to add some pace by introducing Segolela for Khethokwakhe Masuku in the 59th minute.
A move, which later paid the dividends for the title chasing Bucs team.
Goalscorer Matlaba turned provider in 70th minute when his defence splitting pass found Segolela whose job to stick the ball at the back of the net was made easy by the Wits keeper Harrison who committed early allowing the winger to scoop the ball over him for the second goal.
Kadi had a chance to pull one back on the 80th minute when he found space just outside the Pirates, but his powerful shot found Meyiwa in no compromising mood.
The win will save as a confidence booster for Pirates who will be looking to build momentum going to the Soweto derby against Kaizer Chiefs on December 8. – Sapa