Cape Town - Tshegofatso Mabasa's second-half goal proved the difference
as Orlando Pirates clinched a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Highlands
Park at the Makhulong Stadium on Tuesday night.
The first half proved to a be a closely contested affair, with goal-scoring chances at a premium for both teams.
Pirates, welcoming skipper Happy Jele back into the starting XI, had
the first real chance of note in the 15th minute as Vincent Pule headed
just over the bar at the back post after Tshegofatso Mabasa whipped a
good cross into the box from out wide.
The visitors again went close a few minutes later, but the chance
came to nothing as Paseka Mako scuffed his shot with the goal at his
Highlands Park eventually notched their first shot on target in the
29th minute, Tendai Ndoro's header forcing a save from Pirates keeper
Wayne Sandilands, with Ryan Rae striking the post on the follow-up, much
to the relief of the Buccaneers.
Ndoro again went close to breaking the deadlock a few minutes later,
but Sandilands did well to make a diving save, tipping the ball round
the post for a corner.
Pirates had a a great chance to snatch the lead on the stroke of
half-time, but an unmarked Pule somehow failed to hit the target with a
header from close range.
The visitors started on the front foot after the half-time interval
and again went close to grabbing the lead in the 49th minute as Linda
Mntambo fired wide of the mark, while team-mate Pule failed to hit the
target just after the hour mark.
The breakthrough finally arrived with ten minutes remaining as
Mabasa, seemingly in an offside position, collected a through-pass from
Mntambo before bursting into the box and firing a left-footed effort
past the onrushing Thela Ngobeni and into the bottom-right corner.
And the Lions of the North were unable to recover from that setback,
with Pirates holding firm in the final minutes to claim all three points
and return to winning ways.