Moroka Swallows 0
Orlando Pirates (1) 1 Erasmus 9
Dobsonville Stadium - Vladimir Vermezovic scraped a win in his first game in charge of the Buccaneers on Wednesday, though his temper spilled over as Pirates scrambled over the line.
The new Buccaneers mentor hurled a water bottle to the turf in the face of a poor clearance during the second half, and was seen berating his centre-halves, Lucky Lekgwathi and Ayanda Gcaba.
Vermezovic was known for his feisty temper in his time at Kaizer Chiefs, and he might be forced to do more screaming if Pirates defend as they did towards the end of this Soweto derby.
Siyabonga Nomvethe hit the post, and Pirates were grateful, in the end to two brilliant Senzo Meyiwa saves, as they clung on in front of a poor Dobsonville crowd.
Kermit Erasmus’s early strike was enough for Pirates to give themselves a massive boost ahead of the crucial derby with Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday afternoon. Amakhosi’s defeat to Platinum Stars must have been an added bonus for the Bucs, who have plenty of ground still to make up in the title race.
Vermezovic’s first Pirates teamsheet surprised a little, with Tlou Segolela coming out of the Buccaneers wilderness to start. The new Pirates coach also went for a two-man strike force, Erasmus partnered by Helder Pelembe. At the back, Happy Jele was missing with a knee injury, though there was also the suspicion he was being held back for the Chiefs game, sitting one yellow card away from a suspension. Ayanda Gcaba replaced him.
For Swallows, Zeca Marques was able to welcome midfield dynamo Asavela Mbekile back from a three-game ban, while Dikgang Mabalane came in for Edward Manqele.
Pirates started sharply, as if determined to impress Vermezovic, who stood in his tracksuit on the touchline, occasionally scribbling in a notepad, and occasionally issuing instructions, but initially mostly just standing and watching.
Thabo Matlaba was, as usual, enjoying getting forward down the left, and his fine pass across goal was dummied by Pelembe for Erasmus, who crashed an effort off the post.
In the ninth minute, however, Erasmus rippled the net with just his third league goal this season. Matlaba was again involved, swinging a brilliant crossfield pass to Segolela, who teed up Erasmus, and the striker’s finish flew into the far corner.
For a while, it looked like Pirates might run riot, and Pelembe was inches away from converting an excellent cross from Ntsikelelo Nyauza.
It was a little bizarre that Swallows had left their leading scorer, Manqele, on the bench, and they battled to create openings. Nomvethe was typically tireless in his running, but mostly endured a difficult time against the likes of Nyauza and Lekgwathi.
On the one occasion Nomvethe did get to the byline, surging past Lekgwathi, his cut back was decent, and Matlaba made a bit of a mess of his clearance, but Swallows didn’t have enough men in the box, and the Buccaneers scrambled clear.
Pirates faded a little as the half wore on, while Lerato Chabangu found a bit more space on the right of the Pirates back-four.
Pirates ought to have doubled their lead just seconds after the restart, an excellent cross from Pelembe finding Segolela unmarked at the back post, but he inexplicably headed the ball back across goal instead of into a gaping net. The ball found its way back to Pelembe, who cut inside and smashed a shot against the outside of the post.
Marques finally brought on Manqele in the 54th minute, taking off Lefa Tsutsulupa, an attacking move as he attempted to recover the game. Pirates, however, soon threatened on the break, Mbekile, excellent throughout, doing brilliantly to cover as Erasmus looked to burst through on goal.
Vermezovic gave Lehlohonolo Majoro his Pirates debut in the 68th minute, bringing him on for Segolela, though almost immediately, Swallows came close to equalising, Larry Cohen heading over Chabangu’s corner.
At the other end, Greg Etafia did well to save Lekgwathi’s header from a Pirates corner, and Gcaba somehow lashed the rebound off target. For the Buccaneers, there were also good signs of some understanding between Pelembe and Majoro, the latter’s delicate flick nearly finding the Bucs’ new striker.
Pirates just couldn’t put Swallows away, and Manqele almost made them pay with five minutes left, firing over from the edge of the box. Nomvethe then came even closer, turning substitute Nkosinathi Ogle’s cross against the post.
Pirates were clinging on and Meyiwa was forced into two brilliant close range saves at the death, first tipping over a Nomvethe header, and then somehow stopping Cohen from point blank range. But cling on they did.