Gabadinho Mhango saves Orlando Pirates blushes with timely Nedbank Cup goal
CAPE TOWN - Twice Nedbank Cup winners Orlando Pirates were made to sweat for their 1-0 win over GladAfrica Championship side Uthongathi in a round of 32 clash at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The only goal of the match was scored by Gabadinho Mhango, who finally made Pirates' starting XI after being named on the substitutes’ bench in recent DStv Premiership matches.
The opening 20 minutes produced scrappy play with neither side holding on to the ball for too long. Pirates enjoyed the lion's share of possession, but their general play lacked a sense of urgency.
With a 63% possession advantage Pirates managed to pin Uthongathi down in their half for long spells, but they rarely managed to break down the opposition's steely defence.
There may have been too many instances of individualism from Pirates when teamwork may have been more productive in the striking zone.
Pirates had nine shots at goal, although a mere two were on target in the first half. In comparison, Richard Ofori, the Pirates goalkeeper, lived a charmed life and had no shots to deal with since Uthongathi's lone first-half shot was off target.
The closest Pirates came to scoring was from a Deon Hotto free-kick in the 18th minute. The ball bounced awkwardly close to the goal line, but Uthongathi goalkeeper Xolani Ngcobo parried the ball for a corner.
Close to the halftime break, Pirates threatened again, but Ngcobo smothered a shot from midfielder Sipheshile Ndlovu. Moments earlier, midfielder Ben Motshwari and striker Mhango combined well to expose Uthongathi’s central defence.
In the second half, Uthongathi played with a fair degree of confidence, and soon they made several attacks into the opposition half without threatening to score.
Just past the hour mark, they were presented with their first real scoring opportunity in the match, but midfielder Khetukuthula Ndlovu, finding himself unmarked in the striking zone, failed to connect with a low goalmouth cross with the goals at his mercy.
Two minutes later, Pirates punished Uthongathi for that lapse with the opening goal in the match. A long ball from deep inside Pirates half reached Hotto, and his neat cross was picked up by Malawian Mhango who scored with a low first-time shot.
Pirates dominated play in the remainder of the half as they set off in search of an 'insurance' goal. The closest they came to scoring was a minute from the end when Congolese substitute Jean-Marc Makusu missed out plumb in front of the opposition's goals.