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Orlando Pirates beat Maritzburg United to edge closer to continental football

Orlando Pirates players celebrate Deon Hotto’s goal during their DStv Premiership match against Maritzburg United at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg on Tuesday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates players celebrate Deon Hotto’s goal during their DStv Premiership match against Maritzburg United at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg on Tuesday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published May 24, 2022


Johannesburg — Thembinkosi Lorch has yet wormed his way back into the hearts of the Ghost.

The Orlando Pirates winger-cum-striker put in a class act as they hammered Maritzburg United 4-1 in a DStv Premiership match at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg on Tuesday night to increase their chances of playing continental football next season.

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With this win, Pirates climbed up to sixth in the league with 43 points, six behind second-placed Cape Town City, who’ve completed their season.

Should Pirates win their remaining two games against Royal AM and SuperSport United, they will play in the CAF Champi0ons League next season.

If they indeed play continental football, Pirates will have players such as Lorch to thank. Lorch’s performance also meant it will be tough for coach Hugo Broos to leave him out of the final Bafana Bafana squad that will play in the Afcon qualifiers next month.

After that painful defeat in the final of the CAF Confederation Cup to RS Berkane last Friday in Uyo, Pirates were eager to dust themselves off and return to winning ways.

With issues of a jet-lag the least of their worries after a four-day rest, Pirates’ stewards Fadlu Davids and Mandla Ncikazi kept the same starting line-up that lost in the lottery of penalty shootout in Uyo.

But perhaps, the heavy pressure of producing was pinned on the shoulders of Lorch. Despite walking away with the Man of the Match award after scoring the equaliser in the 1-1 draw against Berkane, Lorch went from hero to zero and missed his spot-kick in the shootout.

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The Team of Choice didn’t look like they were here for the taking at first as they had the first real chance of the game after Friday Samu put a hard and low shot a few inches wide.

Pirates quickly annihilated the fire that the visitors wanted to stoke as they dominated possession, although they didn’t exert enough pressure in the final third.

But in the midst of Pirates' mild act, Lorch was working his socks off in an aim of creating something for the team in front of goal. And that nearly paid off as hit the upright after finding a pocket of space outside the box.

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With the progression, and with Pirates’ engine room duo Goodman Mosele and Ben Motshari dominating matters, Lorch finally found his goal to the loud cheer of the handful Ghost that had braved the cold Soweto weather.

Against the run of play, Deon Hotto released Lorch with a long-range weighted pass before the Bafana midfielder beat the offside trap and surged towards goal where he slotted past Marcel Engelhardt in style.

Lorch was indeed rolling the years and making up for the penalty miss as he again surged down the flank on the stroke of halftime before unleashing a cutback pass that found Kwame Peprah who slotted in the bottom corner.

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Maritzburg’s flat half spoke volumes of a team that was already on holiday mode as they have nothing to play for after being guaranteed safety.

Coach Ernst Middendorp made all his five substitutions at half-time, changing half of the outfield players at one go as he gave youngsters and fringe players in the team a run.

The onslaught by Orlando Pirates continued as Lorch grabbed his second assist of the night after he teed up Hotto who was left unmarked before turning to slot home.

Samu pulled one back for the visitors, but Lorch was not done as he continued to crack the whip on Maritzburg with his third assist of the night as he sent free Kabelo Dlamini who picked his spot and slotted home.

The day belonged to Lorch, who’ll be eager to carry his performance into the last two games of the season in order to help the team return to African football.


IOL Sport