POLOKWANE – Orlando Pirates returned to winning ways after two consecutive league defeats with a 2-1 victory over Black Leopards in a drama-filled encounter at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Tuesday night.
Pirates, who had taken the lead through a 34th miunute own goal, then had Thamsanqa Gabuza red-carded in bizarre circumstances before they netted a second through Vincent Pule, with the hosts scoring shortly after that in reply.
Bucs were at it from the start, putting the Leopards goal under relentless pressure with a series of fantastic goal scoring chances. But some amateur finishing saw Pule and Gabuza missing gilt-edged opportunities in the opening three minutes.
Gabuza again failed to find the target when he should have scored in the 10th minute, while Pule beat the off-side trap but then fired his volley too close to Lidoda Duvha stopper Rotshidzwa Muleka, who made a good reflex save, before Gabuza's volley on the rebound struck a defender.
Having struggled to take their chances, it was perhaps not surprising that when the Soweto giants broke the deadlock, it was from an own goal as Thivhavhudzi Ndou miscued an attempted clearance from a Gabuza cross and put the ball into his own net.
What was to follow was probably a first in world football as Gabuza stormed to the touchline and angrily threw his shirt in the direction of the Pirates supporters, before sarcastically showing them the gesture used to call for a substitution, and then made his way off the park and down the tunnel.
It was later reported from the Bucs dressing room that the striker had injured himself, although it appeared at the time as if Gabuza was trying to make a point to those fans who have never been shy to show their displeasure when he has failed to take chances in front of goal. Indeed, with no substitution made – which would surely have been the case if Gabuza was injured, Pirates played out the last nine minutes of the first half with 10 men.
The plot then thickened five minutes into the second half when Gabuza reappeared on the side of the pitch – limping and with ice on the knee and supported by a technical team member, and made his way to sit down on the bench.
Referee Thando Ndzandzeka then ran across to the player, flashed what was a second yellow card – for leaving the field without permission (the first booking was for discarding his shirt) , and a red, before Gabuza once more hobbled back to the dressing room.
Leopards, though, failed to capitalise on the numerical advantage and never managed to put the Buccaneers defence under any real pressure. Instead, Pirates were to double their advantage in the 65th minute when a gem of a ball from Xola Mlambo released Pule clear on goal, and this time his finish was clinical as he put a half volley past Muleka.
Lidoda Duvha, however, were not going down without a fight and they reduced the deficit just a five minutes later when Joseph Mhlongo scored with a sensational volley into the top corner from 20-yards out.
The newly-promoted side did have one or two half chances to equalise, but for the most part a 10-man Pirates were able to protect their lead in relative comfort as they claimed all three points from a game which will be remembered for a long time, albeit not only for the football.
African News Agency (ANA)