Justin Shonga caught Polokwane City goalkeeper George Chigova napping with his free kick. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

POLOKWANE – Orlando Pirates went top of the league and extended their unbeaten run in the Premiership to eight following a 2-1 victory over Polokwane City at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Tuesday night.

It was a game of contrasts from the Soweto team’s perspective.

After a poor opening 45 minutes, they came out firing in the second stanza to score through Caio Marcelo and Justin Shonga, before Ayanda Nkili reduced the deficit in the 90th minute.

Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic looked to freshen things up in the middle of a busy fixture period by making several changes to the team which beat AmaZulu in a Telkom Knockout quarter-final clash, which had gone to extra time on Saturday.

However, with Xola Mlambo and Vincent Pule on the bench and Augustine Mulenga not involved at all, the Buccaneers struggled to find much rhythm and lacked the cutting edge that’s been evident in their game over the last couple of months.

Instead, it was Rise and Shine who seized the early initiative, and they had the first clear chance of the game, only for Vusimuzi Mngomezulu to squander an excellent opportunity on 14 minutes when he completely missed a cross with the goal at his mercy eight yards out.

Pirates did improve a bit as the interval approached, and could have been in front themselves when Asavela Mbekile’s cut-back located Shonga, but the Zambian shanked the shot wide of the far-post.

Shonga was to have a couple more efforts before the break, but on both occasions, he fired well wide of the target.

With the rain coming down, Mngomezulu enjoyed the first scoring chance after the restart and looked set to find the back of the net with a curling effort in the 49th minute, before Jackson Mabokgwane came to the Sea Robbers’ rescue with a stunning diving save.

The deadlock, however, was to be broken at the other end of the field, on 58 minutes, as Marcelo nodded in his first goal for Pirates from just a couple of yards out after Polokwane City keeper George Chigova had parried Marshall Munetsi’s initial effort.

It was nearly 2-0 just two minutes later when Thabiso Kutumela played in Thembinkosi Lorch, but although he struck his attempted finish with conviction, Chigova kept him out with a fine save.

The Bucs faithful did not, however, have to wait long for the next goal as Shonga squeezed in a 66th-minute free kick at the near post to double the lead.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Pirates in the closing stages of the game, though, as Sibusiso Mbonani flashed a header inches wide, before Mabokgwane pulled off an outstanding save to tip over Puleng Tloane’s pile-driver.

The pressure paid off for Rise and Shine when Ayanda Nkili’s powerful header was tipped on to the underside of the bar by Mabokgwane, before the ball bounced over the line for a goal.

But having come in the 90th minute, there was little time for a Polokwane comeback as the visiting team held on without too much further issue to secure maximum points in the Limpopo province.

African News Agency (ANA)