JOHANNESBURG – Orlando Pirates moved to within two points of early pacesetters Wits by beating Chippa United 4-2 at the Orlando Stadium on Tuesday night.
But they still have a lot to do to if they want to eventually overtake the Clever Boys and clinch the league.
Pirates were unconvincing in their win against struggling Chippa United, who languish in 15th place and came to Orlando without a win in their last 10 matches.
That winless run stretched to 11 matches on Tuesday night, with the Sea Robbers making up ground between them and the Clever Boys, who have played one game less than Pirates.
By the end of Wednesday night, Wits would have played the same number of games with Pirates as they host Kaizer Chiefs at Bidvest Stadium.
Pirates and other championship contenders will be rooting for the Amakhosi to stop the runaway Wits train that’s carrying a lighter load compared to Pirates, Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns, who also have continental commitments.
Pirates coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic spoke about the need to tighten things at the back and take more risks upfront to get maximum points against a good ball-playing Chippa.
The Serbian fielded a three-man defence, including Alfred Ndengane, who was making his debut.
The fullbacks played as wingbacks in attack, but also provided muscle in defence to make it five when they had to defend.
Pirates did take risks in their attack, but their defence was still porous. Their failure to keep a clean-sheet meant that they only have four clean-sheets in 17 matches, a sad indictment for a team that has ambitions of winning the league.
Wits, on the other hand, have nine clean-sheets in 16 matches.
Even though the Buccaneers’ defence is struggling, their attack packs a mean punch, and they showed that here.
The hosts had the perfect start, with Happy Jele scoring with a well-taken header just two minutes into the game on a wet Johannesburg evening.
The shell-shocked Chippa reacted positively in search of an equaliser, and they got it under fortuitous circumstances.
Mark Mayambela’s errant pass was deflected into the direction of Tebogo Tlolane by Jele, and Tlolane pounced on the mistake and handed the Chilli Boys the equaliser after 22 minutes.
But just as the visitors were growing in confidence, they suffered a self-inflicted blow through the head of Phetso Maphanga, who headed the ball into his own net six minutes later.
The left back was trying to cushion the ball towards goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, but the Nigerian goalkeeper slipped on the wet pitch, following a heavy downpour, and helplessly watched the ball trickle into his own net.
Siyabonga Mpontshane also watched a teammate beat him, as Innocent Maela was the unfortunate player in Pirates’ colours in the 67th minute.
But his blushes were saved by the fact that the hosts had a two-goal cushion at the time after Vincent Pule converted a penalty in the 55th minute.
Kudakwashe Mahachi came from the bench and scored with his first touch to secure maximum points for Pirates before they visit the country of his birth, Zimbabwe, for their Caf Champions League tie against FC Platinum on Saturday.
Sredojevic will need to continue working on his defence if his side are to go far in the Champions League and also challenge for the league.