Orlando – With their title ambitions ended, Orlando Pirates thrashed Black Leopards 4-1 in their Absa Premiership match at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday.
Despite conceding a goal after just four minutes, the Buccaneers went on to play expressive and creative football once the pressure had been relieved.
It was a crushing defeat for Leopards, at the bottom of the log on 23 points, two behind Chippa United, heading into the final fixture of the season on Saturday.
If Leopards lose their last game, against Free State Stars, they would automatically be relegated to the National First Division. A win might still not be enough to avoid the drop.
Pirates, meanwhile, moved into third on 52 points – one behind second-placed Platinum Stars – after Kaizer Chiefs celebrated their first league title in eight years.
Leopards got off to a speedy start when forward Rodney Ramagalela made a bustling run into space down the right before entering the box. He unleashed a thunderbolt strike which rocketed into the top left corner to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
Their joy was short-lived, however, as Pirates replied four minutes later.
Tlou Segolela received the perfect ball from Oupa Manyisa and, running at full pace, banged the ball home for the equaliser.
In the 13th minute, Segolela, tried his luck from way outside the area. His speculative attempt lacked the accuracy of his earlier strike and the ball drifted harmlessly wide.
Ndumiso Mabena made it 2-1 to Pirates in the 19th minute, producing a deft shot from a good position in the box, to help his side take the lead.
Khethowakhe Masuku shot from range in the 21st minute, and his curving effort sailed towards the top right corner, but a diving save from Azwindini Maphaha, in the Leopards goal, denied him.
From the ensuing corner, Happy Jele hit the crossbar with a header and, before the ball was cleared, a Leopards player looked to have handled the ball in the area but the referee waved play on.
Masuku, from 30 metres out, reeled off a powerful strike just over goal in the 28th minute as Pirates looked to stretch their lead.
A corner from Mongezi Bobe for Leopards in the 32nd minute curled towards goal, and needed the punch away from debutante Pirates keeper Brighton Mhlongo.
A free kick by Manyisa found Mpho Makola in the penalty area. Makola controlled the ball and passed to Mabena, who nudged the ball into the back of the net for his brace, and Pirates third goal, in the 33rd minute.
Bobe came close to netting for Leopards in the 38th minute but his shot, from close range required a good reaction save from Mhlongo.
In the 70th minute, Mabena found Manyisa unmarked in the box, and the latter made no mistake in Pirates' 4-1 victory. – Sapa