Orlando Pirates remain in line for yet another knockout trophy success following a 2-0 win over Cape Town Spurs in the first round of the new Carling Knockout at Orlando Stadium on Friday night.
The Buccaneers, crowned champions of the season-opening MTN8 a fortnight ago, had to dig deep to eventually overcome a stubborn Spurs side that was looking to register their first victory since being promoted to the elite league.
Following a first half teeming with chances for both sides but which were not taken advantage of, it took a calamitous goalkeeping error by the visitors for Pirates to finally make their possession dominance count.
Zama Dlamini made a mess of what seemed a routine safe from a grass-cutting shot by Thabang Monare, the Spurs number one pushing the ball to the side when holding onto it appeared easier. Evidence Makgopa was alert and rushed to gain possession only for Dlamini to dive clumsily and succeeded in cathing the lanky striker’s leg, thus conceding a penalty. Captain Thapelo Xoki converted coolly.
Dlamini had struggled with cramps just before that and swiftly made way for Sam Ramsbottom and no sooner than the substitute had settled in the goal than he was fetching the ball from inside the net.
Again Makgopa — making his maiden appearance in the starting line up — was involved in the goal as he exchanged passes with Kermit Erasmus before the latter rounded off Ramsbottom to tap home into the open net for his fist goal of the season.
That the Spurs defence was suddenly as porous as they were was surprising given just how well they had done in the first half to not only shut Pirates out but to threaten their adversaries’ goal as well.
Such was the Capetonians’ attacks that Pirates were forced to replace goalkeeper Sipho Chaine who sustained two successive knocks on his right leg as he stopped Spurs from scoring. He initially felt the full might of Therlo Moosa’s studs on his thigh as the striker tired to connect a ball lofted high and over the Pirates defence on 19 minutes. Five minutes later Chaine was again lying on the ground in pain, Moosa having kicked him on the shin this time.
Moosa nearly scored just thereafter but side-footed his shot inches wide of the goal with Chaine limping and not in a position to make the save. The Bucs number one made way for debutant Melusi Buthelezi.
Pirates could have scored in the first half through Deon Hotto who watched in disbelief as veteran defender Nazeer Allie cleared the ball off the goalline after the Namibian had received a great ball floated over by Patrick Maswangnayi.
They had another chance on the stroke of halftime when Lubeni Haukongo headed Masnwagnyi’s cross back towards his own goal and the ball fell for Erasmus who headed tamely to Dlamini.
The Buccaneers returned improved after the break and were duly rewarded with the two goals that seems them remain in line for a fourth successive knockout title after last season’s victories in the MTN8 and the Nedbank Cup as well as their holding on to the season-opening competition two weeks ago.