DURBAN – The 80th anniversary of Orlando Pirates might herald something to celebrate after all as the Buccaneers limped into the Nedbank Cup final with a 1-0 win over Golden Arrows at the Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu on Sunday.
Pirates registered their first triumph in five assignments when defender Abbubaker Mobara’s first-half header settled the affair for a lethargic-looking team.
Even with a team freshened up with several changes from their last outing, Bucs were a jaded side and were lucky not to concede an equaliser at the death when Arrows heaped pressure on them.
Pirates had three changes to the team that started their league stalemate against Ajax Cape Town last week.
Among the changes, attackers Riyaad Norodien and Tendai Ndoro dropped to the substitutes’ bench, and Mpho Makola and Thamsanqa Gabuza enjoyed a starting berth, with the latter playing against his former club in his home town.
Arrows coach Clinton Larsen went for consistency, making one forced change to the team that lost 1-0 at
Nduduzo Sibiya made it into the starting line-up in the place of suspended Zimbabwean international midfielder Danny Phiri.
Sibiya took his chance to impress and made early forays into the Pirates area, but fluffed it when they had their best opening midway through the first period.
Wayde Jooste did the dirty work of stealing the ball from defender Marc van Heerden and cut it back for Sibiya, but instead of shooting, the midfielder elected to pass to striker Knox Mutizwa and the move broke down.
Shortly thereafter, the home outfit were punished for that miss. Referee Phillip Tinyani awarded Pirates a soft free kick for a ghost foul by Musa Bilankulu.
Mpho Makola dipped a curler towards the near post, where Abbubaker Mobara headed in for the 34th-minute opener.
It was the ideal start for a struggling unit like Pirates. Sitting a lowly 11th in the league – with only a mathematical shot at getting into the top half of the standings when they face the same team in the final round of matches next weekend – this tournament represented their only opportunity to collect some silverware to celebrate their 80th anniversary.
Mobara’s goal would have come as a relief and a confidence boost for a Pirates side that had not won or scored in their last four outings.
Their last victory was last month against Chippa United, losing semi-finalists against defending champions Supersport United on Saturday.
And their last away victory coincidentally came in this competition, when they thumped Free State Stars 4-1 in the quarter-final round.
Seemingly, they were destined to advance to the final.
Despite their under-par season, Pirates came into the tie with a dominant record against the hosts, having beaten the Durban team 2-1 and 3-1 in the Telkom Knockout and league first round respectively.
That took their overall victory tally against Arrows to 22 from 35 meetings, with only five losses. They rode their luck towards the end when Sibiya’s free kick struck the bar in optional time.
Sunday’s result further enhanced those head-to-head statistics. More importantly for Pirates, it saw them sail into the final against SuperSport.
That clash will be held at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on June 24. It’s a repeat of last year’s final, a clear chance of redemption for the