Orlando Pirates withstood a late barrage from Mamelodi Sundowns to secure a vital 2-1 victory at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday evening that further strengthens their credentials as potential Absa Premiership title winners.
Goals from Katlego Mashego and Thulasizwe Mbuyane had put the Buccaneers in control of the score line – if not the game, which was dominated by the Brazilians – but a 79th minute goal from Mabhuti Khenyeza and a late sending off for Tlou Segolela meant that the home team had to defend like never before to hold out for the victory.
Pirates made two changes to the side that beat MP Black Aces 1-0 last weekend, with Clifford Ngobeni and Tlou Segolela replacing Phenyo Mongala and the suspended Oupa Manyisa.
Sundowns also made two alterations to the line-up that beat Santos 3-1, with Thapelo Tshilo replacing Matthew Booth and Surprise Moriri stepping in for Franklin Cale (who was unavailable due to personal matters).
The Buccaneers almost opened the scoring after just three minutes of play, with Andile Jali playing a great ball to hand Katlego Mashego a one-on-one chance with Wayne Sandilands, but the goalkeeper came up with a fine save.
Yet ten minutes later Mashego did get the better of Sandilands, this time from the penalty spot. The pace of Tlou Segolela drew a rash challenge from Method Mwanjali and referee Buyile Gqubule awarded the hosts a spot kick. Mashego converted the penalty with cool efficiency to make it 1-0 in the 13th minute.
The Brazilians’ troubled start to the game continued in the 18th minute when Lebohang Mokoena, running onto the ball in a dangerous attacking position, pulled up with a serious hamstring injury. Mabhuti Khenyeza replaced him a few minutes later.
Yet Sundowns gradually began to take control of the midfield battle and dominated the last 20 minutes of the first half, even though they weren’t really able to create many scoring chances.
The best opportunity went the way of Nyasha Mushekwi, who beat Moeneeb Josephs to a ball outside of the penalty area but was unable to direct a shot on target from a difficult angle.
The visitors growing confidence was cut short in the final minute of regulation time in the first half when the home side went 2-0 up. Pirates worked the ball to Clifford Ngobeni from a corner kick and the midfielder played in a teasing cross that allowed Thulasizwe Mbuyane to score with a looping header over Sandilands.
Despite their two-goal deficit, Sundowns started the second half confidently and dominated proceedings right through to the final whistle. However, they found Pirates’ defence very difficult to break down, with Man of the Match Rooi Mahamutsa simply immense at the back, while Moeneeb Josephs also made some excellent saves.
It seemed as if the Brazilians would never breach the home team’s backline but almost out of nowhere they pulled one back in the 79th minute. A short corner kick routine saw Pelembe play a cross to the near post and Khenyeza provided the finishing touch with a clever flick on the outside of his right foot.
Bucs were well and truly on the back foot by this stage and just before the end of regulation time they were reduced to ten men, with Segolela shown a second yellow card for time-wasting and duly sent off.
Nearly eight minutes of additional time was played in a breathless end to the game in which Pirates packed their penalty area and resorted to little other than desperate kicks upfield, but their defence held firm and they clung on for a 2-1 victory.
Orlando Pirates (2) 2 (Mashego 13’ pen, Mbuyane 45’)
Mamelodi Sundowns (0) 1 (Khenyeza 79’)
Pirates: (4-2-3-1) Josephs; Jele, Lekgwathi, Mahamutsa, Cloete; Jali (Mongala 82’), Ngobeni; Mbuyane (Johannes 90+5’), Chansa, Segolela; Mashego (Malokase 84’)
Sundowns: (4-2-3-1) Sandilands; Xulu, Tshilo, Mwanjali, Mdledle; Pattison, Nyandoro; Mokoena (Khenyeza 22’), Moriri (Modise 57’), Pelembe; Mushekwi (Henyekane 76’