JOHANNESBURG - Orlando Pirates ended their winless run to bag their first maximum points of the season with a 1-0 victory over neighbours Swallows FC in a DStv Premiership encounter at a hot Orlando Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
After three games, two in the league and one in the MTN8, Pirates had failed to register a single win this season. They drew their league matches, while they were bundled out of the Wafa Wafa Cup by the Birds at this very same ground.
But they finally turned the tide, with Tshegofatso Mabasa coming off the bench to head home late into the game for their first three points of the season.
But this win capped off a special occasion for captain Happy Jele, who celebrated his 400th appearance for the club.
Jele is the highest capped Pirates player after joining the club in 2006. Having been at the club for 15 years, Jele has matured like fine wine. As a result, he wore his heart on his sleeve this afternoon, proving while he’s been a colossal figure for the club.
Since their back-to-back wins against Pirates and Royal AM in the league, Swallows returned to their “drawing ways” with two stalemates in their last two outings against AmaZulu in the league and Cape Town City in the MTN8 before the break.
But they made the short trip from Dobsonville to Orlando with a sense of belief that they could turn their fortunes around. After all, Pirates have been one of their favourite opponents – after two draws and one win between last term and this season.
Pirates coaches Mandla Ncikazi and Fadlu Davids were not leaving any stone unturned in the 'original Soweto derby', though. They made only three changes to the team that drew with Marumo Gallants. Ntsako Makhubela was the notable inclusion.
This match marked Makhubela’s debut since joining the team from Golden Arrows in August. He slotted in the engine room alongside Abel Mabaso and Goodman Mosele. But he didn’t make enough inroads into the opposition’s half as would have liked.
But perhaps that was not due to his own doing, given the fact there was traffic, while he didn’t receive adequate passes from his teammates, needing to dig deep. That could be why Pirates’ first real chance of the game came from a set-piece earlier on.
But Deon Hotto couldn’t replicate the thunderbolt he took against Stellenbosch from an identical territory, as his effort sailed into the stands. Pirates, though, continued to pile on the pressure with some silk touches going into the wide areas.
But the closest they came was through a Vincent Pule hard and low shot from the byline, but Sanele Tshabalala did well to get down quickly and parry the effort back into play before Vuyo Mere cleared away the danger as the Birds’ defence regrouped.
The two sides went into the interval still deadlocked. But perhaps Swallows let themselves down in the process, given the fact that Dillion Solomons’ diagonal balls were not effectively used by their attackers – with Pirates easily winning the second balls.
The two teams added firepower to their attacking contingents in the second half, hoping to find the breakthrough. But still, the lacklustre finishing and solid defence from either side stood in the ways of the goals earlier on. However, that was before Mabasa pounced.