McCarthy grabs win for Pirates
Johannesburg - An acrobatic scissors kick from substitute striker Benni McCarthy gave Orlando Pirates a crucial 1-0 win over a 10-man Maritzburg United outfit at Orlando Stadium on Sunday.
McCarthy's introduction sparked life into a below par outfit, with the veteran goal-poacher changing the game with his first touch, having come on for Rudie Bester with 20 minutes left.
He completed Oupa Manyisa's free-kick in a stylish manner, leaving United goalkeeper Francis Chansa with no chance to react in the 74th minute.
Importantly, it gave the Buccaneers three points that helped them move up to third in the Premiership standings.
Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs are second on the log, while Mamelodi Sundowns remain top of the standings as the championship race intensifies.
Pirates, however, were not impressive in the encounter - a cause for concern ahead of next week's CAF Champions League second-leg away tie against Angolan side Recreativo do Lobolo.
They were blunt up front in the first half while there were also some concerns at the back after United failed to utilise the numerous chances they created on the day.
Pirates coach Julio Leal opted to start with Portuguese Luis Boa Morte - a midfielder - as the main striker alongside Ndumiso Mabena.
Boa Morte had a poor game and was replaced by the bustling Tokelo Rantie in the second half.
In defence, Leal gave a start to left back Thabo Matlaba, who had an impressive club debut, while nippy winger Bester made the first XI against his former club.
Mabena had the side's only genuine chance of the first 45 minutes, blasting wide from close range after a good cross from Dikgang Mabalane on the right in the fourth minute.
From the other end, United created opportunities with the crafty Kurt Lentjies pulling the strings in midfield.
A notable change to the Team of Choice's starting line-up was between the posts where Francis Chansa was in for injured regular Shu-Aib Walters.
They came in to their own midway through the opening period, but midfielder Wayne Matle completely missed the ball in the penalty box from a Peter Petersen throw-in after half an hour had elapsed.
The powerful Felix Obada soon thundered a shot that went narrowly wide of goal.
Lentjies then tested goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs with a long-range shot just before the break, but the Bafana Bafana shot stopper was up to the task as he pulled off a save.
In the second half, United were dealt a blow when captain Petersen was shown a second yellow card and sent off for a hand ball on the hour mark.
The visitors struggled as Pirates seemed to gain some momentum for the final quarter of the match.
The KwaZulu-Natal outfit lived to rue missed first-half chances that would have put all the pressure on Pirates.
In injury time, there was some controversy as United thought they had salvaged a point after substitute Prince Olomu "scored" from a set piece, but Mor Diouf was adjudged to be offside.
It turned out to be the last play of the day as the visitors' coach, Ernst Middendorp, vented his frustration with the match officials for the disallowed goal.