Matlaba strikes as Pirates move into top eight


JOHANNESBURG – Orlando Pirates broke into the top eight on the Absa Premiership log after beating coach-less Chippa United 2-1 here on Saturday night.

Pirates are now eighth on the PSL standings with 31 points after 25 matches, while Chippa dropped a place down to 13th on 24 points in 26 games.

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Orlando Pirates star Thabo Matlaba rifles the ball home to clinch victory against Chippa United. Photo: Gavin Barker, BackpagePixThamsanqa Gabuza (centre) begins the celebrations after opening the account for Orlando Pirates. Photo: Gavin Barker, BackpagePixMapaseka Mako, who scored the only goal for Chippa, puts pressure on Thembinkosi Lorch of Orlando Pirates. Photo: Gavin Barker, BackpagePix

The decision to put Dan Malesela on “special leave” after the 3-2 defeat against Maritzburg United a week ago, with just five league games left, proved to be an unwise decision by Chippa chairman Chippa Mpengesi.

It affected his players’ mood and performance on the pitch.

The Chilli Boys played with no sense of aggression moving forward and at times looked disjointed when they dropped back to defend in the first period of the match.

Orlando Pirates had enough room to exploit in their opponents’ half, but lacked the required aggression to punish them.

Thamsanqa Gabuza scored a beauty of an opener with a scissor kick, after Thabo Matlaba delivered a stunner of a cross into the area.

Gabuza sent it home with his right foot after slipping past his marker inside the inside the 18-yard box.

The goal should have counted as Pirates’ second of the night, after Abbubaker Mobara was denied earlier in the match.

The central midfielder unleashed a powerful shot just outside the box in the 23rd minute, but the opposition goalkeeper Zama Dlamini was well-positioned to make the required save.

Just before halftime, Chippa fought back and scored a comeback goal through midfielder Mapaseka Mako.

That strike, which went through Siyabonga Mpontshane’s legs, sent the whole of Chippa’s bench into applause, with the hope that it would serve as a lifeline going into the second half.

For Mbuyiselo Sambu, who was making his debut appearance as the club’s interim coach, he was hoping that his side would avoid another defeat, but they couldn’t as Pirates had too much quality for them to handle.

In the second period, Pirates continued playing with more aggression and verve moving forward, causing enough trouble for their opponents to always track back.

Just seven minutes into the second stanza, Gabuza was presented with another opportunity, but wasted the golden chance.

But soon afterwards, Matlaba made up for that blunder. The Bafana Bafana international unleashed a powerful shot from outside the box, which proved too hot for Dlamini to handle with between the sticks.

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