Calamity for Pirates as they hand the Caf advantage back to Stellies

MOSES Mthembu of Richards Bay challenged by Phillip Ndlondlo of Orlando Pirates during the DStv Premiership match between at the Orlando Stadium, Soweto on May 11. | BackpagePix

MOSES Mthembu of Richards Bay challenged by Phillip Ndlondlo of Orlando Pirates during the DStv Premiership match between at the Orlando Stadium, Soweto on May 11. | BackpagePix

Published May 11, 2024




Barns 38’

SOWETO – Orlando Pirates failed to make use of a rare advantage and climb up to the second spot on the DStv Premiership standings after a shock defeat last night.

Pirates lost 1-0 to Richards Bay at home, Orlando, to remain third on the log with 49 points, one behind the second-place holders Stellenbosch.

But given that Stellies had suffered their own shocking 2-0 loss to Moroka Swallows also in Soweto earlier, a win for Pirates would have put them in the second spot ahead of the last two games of the season.

And while the loss might prove calamitous for Pirates regarding their bid for a second-place finish, this win brought euphoria and breathing space for the Natal Rich Boys.

Bay won here tonight to ensure that they avoid the automatic relegation which has since befallen on Cape Town Spurs.

Albeit remaining 15th on the log, Bay have an unassailable 27 points, while basement dwellers Spurs can only amass 25 if they win the last two games.

Granted, Spurs will feel hard done that they’ll be bowing out of the top-flight after just one season back, but this loss will sting more to Pirates if they don’t finish second come May 28.

Stellies’ earlier defeat to Swallows just a few blocks away in Dobsonville had opened ample room for Pirates to win here in Orlando and climb up to second.

But Bay had other ideas. Pirates led into the break, courtesy of a well taken goal from the evergreen Sanele Barns which also proved to be the winner.

Somila Ntsundwana unleashed a timid shot that came off the arm of Phillip Ndlondlo inside the box before the loose ball fell into the path of Barns who calmly slotted home.

‘The Ghost’ weren’t fazed by that strike as they continued with song – as they had done for the better of the first half – cajoling their team on.

They had ample reason to believe that the Sea Robbers would cruise their way back into the game, having had no scoring problems coming into this game. But it wasn’t to be.

Amid their seven-game winning streak, Pirates had scored a whooping 23 goals, while their defence was breached only five times.

Striker Tshegofatso Mabasa had driven Pirates’ pursuit for the coveted second spot, scoring crucial goals enroute to climbing to the top of the scoring charts with 15 goals.

As such, it wasn’t surprising that he nearly restored parity for the hosts just after Barns’ goal, having put his header over the crossbar after Patrick Maswanganyi’s cross.

Mabasa will, however, count himself lucky that he finished the game – and possibly the league season – after getting a slap on the wrist from referee Christopher Kistoor for a horrible tackle.

Early in the second half, Mabasa clutched into Lwandle Mabuya’s leg with his studs after missing the ball, only for Kistoor to give him a verbal warning, let alone a yellow card.

Pirates had to use their lucky escape to their advantage, press for the much-needed equaliser – and possibly winner - to leapfrog Stellies.

They huffed and puffed for that elusive goal, with Jose Riveiro even changing his formation, pulling out his defensive troops for the attacking ones. But it wasn’t to be.

Maswanganyi had nearly found the equaliser late on, which would have still seen the Bucs leapfrog Stellies on goal difference, but his close-range shot was tipped over the bar by Salim Magoola.

And that was how things ended: calamity for Pirates as they handed the advantage back to Stellies for the second place finish, and euphoria for Richards who sealed their safety from automatic relegation.