Orlando Pirates get invaluable win against Mamelodi Sundowns
An invaluable win for both Soweto giants. Orlando Pirates carried out the “Lord’s Work” as they defeated champions Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 at the sold Orlando Stadium on Wednesday, night helping bitter-rivals Kaizer Chiefs to consolidate their nine-point lead at summit of the standings.
Pirates remain sixth on the log standings with 27 points, while the Brazilians, who are second on the log standings, suffered yet another hurdle in the title defence as they failed to close the gap.
It takes a special occasion for a 40 000-capacity venue to be packed to the rafters for a midweek encounter, unless the fixture, of course, involves two powerhouses of South African football.
The home team set the tone of the match, with Fortune Makaringe making great forays in the half of the Brazilians but that didn’t yield immediate results as the champions’ defensive contingent stood their ground.
Instead, the visitors flipped the script, using foreign counter-and-set-piece play in their bid to extinguish fire that the Buccaneers were looking to stoke.
Sundowns’ change of strategy nearly worked like a charm as Anele Ngcongca connected well with a telling Gaston Sirino delivery before his diving header rattled against the upright with Wayne Sandilands well beaten.
The Pirates’ No 1 would soon, thereafter, revive himself, denying Thapelo Morena’s close-range effort with a sterling save following a one-on-one duel as Sundowns appeared to be on course to break the deadlock.
But there was a sterner character about this Pirates team in the first half. Since Josef Zinnbauer took over the reins, the Buccaneers have scored in all the first halves of their last three matches – notching six of their eight-goal tally.
And that’s why you’d not help but wonder whether this was the game where that impressive streak was going to come to an end, especially with the in-form striker Gabadinho Mhango kept at bay by Sundowns’ defence for the better part of the half.
But the Malawian proved that as a goal poacher he doesn’t need too many chances to make the difference, punishing the sleepy Sundowns’ defence on the half-an-hour mark as Buccaneers went into the recess with the lead.
Following a great inter-play inside Sundowns’ half, Vincent Pule teed up Luvuyo Memela, who prosed the visitors’ defence with a delightful through ball that found a loose Mhango, who calmly slotted past Denis Onyango for his 11th of the season in 15 league matches.
While Pirates somewhat show a menacing side in the first half, they’ve lacked to ability to produce the goods in the second, hence they’ve conceded in the last three matches.
Such that, that hoodoo nearly came back to haunt them as Sirino rattled the upright after catching Sandilands off the line in the last 10 minutes of regulation time.
However, a clean sheet here tonight proved that they could well be on their way to becoming a well-oiled machine.