Pirates sink Thanda Royal
Teko Modise (Gallo Images)
Durban - Orlando Pirates reduced SuperSport United’s lead at the top of the Absa Premiership to three points when they defeated relegation threatened Thanda Royal Zulu 2-0 in their Premiership played at Durban’s Absa Stadium on Saturday.
The win has left the title wide open. But Pirates were far from impressive and worked hard for their three points.
TRZ learnt a tough lesson - that goals win matches - and the home side squandered too many chances especially in the first half which could have taken the game away from the title-chasing Bucs.
But there was even more bad news for TRZ when their Kwa Zulu Natal neighbours Maritzburg United leap-frogged over them when they defeated Santos 1-0 at the Woodburn Stadium on Saturday.
United now have 28 points with six matches remaining. TRZ are on 26 with the same number of fixtures remaining.
Pirates were lucky to change over at halftime 0-0.
The home side were the better side in an entertaining first 45 minutes. Bucs made far too many mistakes in defence and rarely got forward to test goalkeeper Aubrey Mathibe.
TRZ were unlucky in the sixth minute when burly striker Nkosinathi Nhleko crashed a shot off the crossbar from a Clifford Mulenga cross. Unluckily for the former Bafana Bafana striker, the ball bounced in front of Bucs goal line and was cleared out of danger.
Two minutes later, Bucs hard working midfielder Benson Mhlongo blocked another goal-bound Nhleko shot as TRZ started getting the upper hand.
Bucs' only shot in the first half produced a great save from Mathibe who managed to block a pile driver from Dikgang Mabalane in the 12th minute.
Bucs defender Lucas Thwala brilliantly made a great tackle under pressure to clear from the ever dangerous Nhleko on 16 minutes.
Then Nhleko missed the best chance of the half when from close range he rushed his shot and blasted over the crossbar in the 28th minute.
Bucs defender Innocent Mdledle sent a long ranger screamer over the TRZ crossbar a minute later.
Mulenga failed to punish an uncharacteristic mistake from Thwala late in the half when Thwala played a poor back pass but Mulenga was well wide when he should have at least got his shot on target.
But against the run of play Bucs leading goal scorer defender Thwala slotted home a 47th minute penalty when TRZ’s Musa Nyatama pulled down Katlego Mashego inside his penalty area.
TRZ tried hard to get back into the game but Bucs' greater experience and ability to weather the pressure saw them home. TRZ came close when a header from Felix Obada was fractionally wide in the 60th minute.
Pirates superstar Teko Modise showed his class yet again when he latched onto a fantastic ball from substitute Thulasizwe Mbuyane, returning after a long layoff for injury, picked out Modise on the left wing and Modise calmly picked his spot in the far corner to make it 2-0 and wrap up the three points with Bucs second goal in the 78th minute.