DURBAN – The Absa Premiership title race found a serious runner after Orlando Pirates sailed to a 2-1 win over Golden Arrows in Durban on Saturday night and closed the gap on leaders Mamelodi Sundowns to one point.
Three second-half goals and a bit of drama over the sending off of an Arrows player made for an exciting affair, as Pirates put behind them their Nedbank Cup exit and got into the league race.
Strikes from Thembinkosi Lorch and Mthokozisi Dube did the damage before a late fightback saw Arrows register a consolation goal at Princess Magogo Stadium.
Arrows were earlier in the day overtaken by Chippa United, who beat Free State Stars in an afternoon clash, and by neighbours AmaZulu, who banked a point at Kaizer Chiefs in the early night game.
Those results saw Arrows drop a few places to 12th in the 16-team standings, and prevented Free State and Chiefs from closing the gap on Bucs.
Therefore going into this late-night battle, Abafana Bes’thende knew victory would take them back into the top eight, their main target for the season, in place of the Chili Boys.
It also gave Pirates a chance to make ground on Mamelodi Sundowns, albeit from an extra game, while pulling away from the chasing pack.
That perhaps led to their frantic start in KwaMashu, which resulted in hurried attempts on goal.
FT | @goldenarrowsfc1 1-2 @orlandopirates.
🥅 Lorch 49’
🥅 Dube 70’
Bucs came, they saw, they took the points. The intensity paid off as the Bucs continue the league winning momentum. Another MOTM performance for Nyatama 👏🏾.
There was a fair penalty shout for Pirates when Zambian Justin Shonga was bundled over by Mzwandile Buthelezi midway through the half, although strike partner Thembinkosi Lorch might have done better shooting at goal instead of passing.
Arrows were fortunate goalkeeper Maximilian Mbaeva was well placed for whatever else flew his way.
They had their trigger moments too, when Danny Venter elected for power instead of placement off an indirect free kick.
And in the final minute of the half Arrows’ former player Gladwin Shitolo denied Lerato Lamola from shooting with a timely clearance.
The gulf in class told when Pirates plundered two goals in the second half on either side of a red card drama.
First Lorch made amends for his earlier misses when he fired in courtesy of Musa Nyatama’s layoff four minutes into the restart.
Midway through the half, Mthokozisi Dube doubled the lead after he buried Luvuyo Memela’s pass.
In between the goals referee Thando Ndzandzeka sent off Malawian defender Limbikani Mzava for a second yellow-card offence when instead it was Mzwandile Buthelezi, who should have been cautioned for a sliding tackle on Memela in front of the Bucs bench.
For a change, the usually calm Arrows coach Clinton Larsen dashed out of his area to remonstrate with the official.
The melee took several minutes to die down on the touchline.
On the field, however, it sparked some fight from the home unit.
Even after they conceded the second, Arrows pressed Pirates at pace and were rewarded with a goal from substitute midfielder Jabulani Shongwe seven minutes from time.