Orlando Pirates’ Absa Premiership title bid remains very much on track after they narrowly defeated Maritzburg United 1-0 at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday night.
A lone goal from Vincent Pule saw the Buccaneers reclaim a three-point lead over nearest chasers Mamelodi Sundowns (who have a game in hand) at the top of the table, while the Team of Choice remain rooted to the foot of the standings and have moved ever closer to direct relegation.
Pirates had a great chance to claim the lead on 14 minutes when Vincent Pule picked up a poor back pass and squared for Thembinkosi Lorch to shoot into an unguarded net, but Nazeer Allie heroically threw himself in the path of the attacker’s effort and saved a certain goal.
At the other end of the field, Maritzburg youngster Bongokuhle Hlongwane looked a very promising prospect with his speed and skill, and just before the half-hour mark he drilled a low shot across the face of goal in what was the hosts’ best chance of the first half.
The Soweto side came on strong in the dying minutes before the interval, with both Pule and Lorch shooting just off target – much to the anger of United goalkeeper Richard Ofori, who felt he should have been afforded greater protection from his defence.
Maritzburg made a change at the start of the second half, sending on Deolin Mekoa in place of Mxolisi Kunene, but it was the Buccaneers who continued to look the likelier scorers and saw a missed chance from Justin Shonga in the opening minutes after the restart.
Pirates continued to chip away at the hosts’ defence and finally they broke through on 67 minutes, with a smart passing move putting Luvoyo Memela in on goal – his effort was half saved by Ofori and then touched on by the retreating Brian Onyango, before Pule tapped home from close range.
The league leaders were happy to play within themselves after taking the lead, knowing that the onus was on Maritzburg to try and force a way back into the game. The KwaZulu-Natal side were unable to really threaten Pirates’ defence, who held firm to ensure a potentially crucial three-point haul.
Maritzburg United 0
Orlando Pirates (0) 1 (Pule 67’)
Maritzburg: Ofori, Allie, De Reuck, Onyango, Shandu, Ndlovu, Timm, Makaringe, Kunene (Mekoa 46’), Mokate (Moseamedi 69’), Hlongwane (Kutumela 78’)
Pirates: Sandilands, Dube, Jele, Munetsi, Maela, Lorch, Motshwari, Nyatama, Memela (Qalinge 90+3’), Pule (Ndengane 77’), Shonga (Mulenga 85’). SuperSport