Johannesburg — Substitute Fortune Makaringe scored a solo goal that ensured that Orlando Pirates kept their chances of finishing in the top two alive after beating Sekhukhune United 1-0 in a league match at Ellis Park on Wednesday night.
Pirates are fourth on the log with 38 points, five behind the second-placed rookies Royal AM. Sekhukhune, meanwhile, are 10th with 30 points, one behind the eighth-placed SuperSport United. Both sides have six games left in the league.
Pirates’ goal came in the last minutes of the game after goalkeeper Ayanda Dlamini allowed the goal-kick to slip from his hand and bounce before he was forced to make a clearance as far as Thembinkosi Lorch who teed up Tshegofatso Mabasa.
Mabasa with his back against goal laid off the ball for Makaringe who easily beat a flat-footed Dlamini with a curling shot. That goal saved Pirates from the blushes given that Deon Hotto missed a penalty midway through the second stanza.
After playing to a 1-all draw in their last meeting, the two teams knew that all that was key from this match were the full points. Pirates wanted to close in on the third-place Kaizer Chiefs, while Sekhukhune wanted to climb up to the top half.
But that wasn’t going to be easy as the two teams had ball players in the engine room, while Siphesihle Ndlovu was the surprise starter for Pirates. This was Ndlovu’s only seventh appearance for Pirates across all competitions this campaign.
Ndlovu and the rest of Pirates midfielders started on a high tempo. But the visitors, led by Yusuf Maart, were not leaving any stone unturned in the midfield. They won duels and some fair of possession heading into the first 30 minutes.
But the home side were unfortunate not to find the lead during their dominance as Pirates’ defensive wall stood firm, averting all the pressure. That must have been disappointing for them after scoring early on in their last match.
With the progression of the game, Pirates tried to huff and puff. But the closest they came to scoring was when Ndlovu blazed his shot into the stands from a close Deon Hotto set-piece. The two teams went into the break with no shots on target.
The two teams started the second half with a high tempo, but their defensive units closed down the pockets of spaces at the back. So much so that Richard Ofori and Ayanda Dlalmini hadn’t much to do in the first 15 minutes after the restart.
But after the 60th minute, Pirates exerted pressure and they duly won a penalty after Edwin Gyimah brought down Ndlovu inside the box. Up stepped Hotto but Dlamini guessed well and parried the hard and low shot away for a corner.
In the end, though, the Bucs defended their slender lead and walked away with the three points. For Sekhukhune, meanwhile, they’ll be eager to return to winning ways in their next encounter after failing to win in their last five matches.