Orlando Pirates got a late win over Highlands Park. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN  Orlando Pirates needed a controversial late goal to beat Highlands Park 1-0 in a league encounter at the Makhulong Stadium on Tuesday night.

While the Buccaneers had probably enjoyed more of the scoring chances in a lively match in Tembisa, they were aided by a poor decision by the assistant referee - who should have lifted his flag for off-sides before Tshegofatso Mabaso scored in the 80th minute - to help them end a run of three league games without victory.

In an eventful opening half, the first talking point came in the 12th minute when Mabaso went flying in at Lindokuhle Mbatha and appeared fortunate to only receive a yellow card for what was a nasty challenge.

Pirates, meanwhile, had a couple of chances as Vincent Pule sent a looping header over the bar in the 14th minute before Mabasa steered a shot wide after a great pass from Justin Shonga on the half hour mark.

Following that, Highlands Park sprung into gear and looked set to take the lead when Peter Shalulile did brilliantly down the right flank before crossing for Tendai Ndoro, whose header was directed too close to Bucs keeper Wayne Sandilands, who reacted superbly to make the save.

A minute later and Ndoro was in with another chance after the ball broke to him in the box, but from eight yards out he skewed his volley well wide.

The Soweto side could well have ended the first half a goal to the good, but after Paseka Mako picked out Pule with a pin-point cross in added time, the resultant header from six yards out was a poor one as it cleared the bar by some distance.

Pirates also had a chance just after the restart through Linda Mntambo, who fired straight at Highlands keeper Thela Ngobeni.

More followed as Justin Shonga went close from a tight angle before Pule twice shot over the bar, while Mlungisi Mbunjana had two efforts from range for the hosts, none of which troubled Sandilands.

As the match went past the 70 minute mark, it was very much Bucs who were on top. But they continued to be frustrated in front of goal as Fortune Makaringe had a shot blocked by Spiwe Msimango, and then both Pule and Gabadinho Mhango had efforts saved Ngobeni.

The breakthrough was finally to materialise 10 minutes before the end of regulation time when Mntambo burst forward from his own midfield before playing in Mabasa - who showed great speed and composure before slotting the ball past an on-coming Ngobeni.

Replays did show however that Mabasa had clearly been offsides, but with no video review system in place, the goal stood.

Pirates were able to hang on for the remainder of the game without much issue to secure the win - which moves them to eighth spot on the standings and serves as a timely morale-booster ahead of Saturday's derby showdown with Kaizer Chiefs in the Telkom Knockout. 

African News Agency (ANA)