PIETERMARITZBURG – Orlando Pirates solidified their spot at the summit of the Premiership with an important 1-0 victory against relegation threatened Maritzburg United on Wednesday night.
The Buccaneers went three points clear of second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns, who are the defending champions. Pirates have now captured 53 points after 28 games.
They will face Cape Town City away from home and Polokwane City in their own territory in the last league outing.
It was a fourth victory on the trot for the Buccaneers on Wednesday. They haven’t won a league title since 2011/12, and are going through a barren run of five years without silverware. But Pirates can now start to believe that they can end their trophy drought.
Maritzburg are still languishing at the foot of the table, and time is running out for them. They need to win all their matches from now on to have any chance of avoiding the chop.
Brain Onyango committed a serious blunder at the start of the match at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg, as his attempted back-pass was intercepted by Vincent Pule.
The skilful Bafana winger played a telling ball into the path of Thembinkosi Lorch, but he was denied by a diving Nazeer Allie.
It was a crucial block by the veteran defender to keep Pirates at bay.
The Buccaneers dominated the early exchanges. Their intent was clear – go all out for maximum points.
Allie was making an impact all over the pitch. He came close to breaking the deadlock for the Team of Choice after he was spotted by Mxolisi Kunene from a free kick.
The Cape Town-born defender, though failed to connect with the ball, and the Buccaneers survived.
Maritzburg finally settled into the game after 25 minutes, stringing some swift passes together and putting that Pirates defence under pressure.
Bongokuhle Hlongwane tested Wayne Sandilands with a thumping header, but the former Bafana Bafana goal-minder was up to the task.
Hlongwane was menacing for the Pirates defence with his pace, good runs and tricks from the channels, but he ran out of steam in the second half.
Pirates finished the first half on a positive note with a few attempts from distance, but they didn’t trouble Onyango.
The two sides were still deadlocked at 0-0 during the interval, but the game was played at a frenetic pace.
⚫️⚪️🔴⭐️— Orlando Pirates FC (@orlandopirates) April 24, 2019
FT || @MaritzburgUtd 0-1 @orlandopirates.
🥅 Pule 67’
It’s 3pts in the end as the Bucs leave the Harry Gwala Stadium in the same way they came in: on top of the table. It wasn’t easy, but it was done.
☠️🔵☠️🔵☠️#OnceAlways #AbsaPrem pic.twitter.com/4Ps9Zxl1Mv
Maritzburg keeper Richard Ofori showed a great sense of anticipation in the second half as he came out of his goalposts on several occasions to clear the danger.
Pule finally broke the deadlock in the 67 minutes as Maritzburg invited danger with some sloppy back passes.
Three minutes later, Onyango almost restored parity from a corner kick, but Sandilands kept it out.
Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic closed shop with 15 minutes before the final whistle, sacrificing goal-scorer Pule for Alfred Ndengane to stabilise the defence.@Minenhlecr7