Orlando Pirates returned to the top of the Absa Premiership with a comfortable 2-0 win over Soweto rivals Moroka Swallows at the Orlando Stadium on Wednesday night.
Winger Dikgang Mabalane continued his impressive return from long-term injury by scoring both goals early in the match.
With Ajax Cape Town and Mamelodi Sundowns drawing 4-4 in their thrilling match in Atteridgeville, the Buccaneers took full advantage of their two title rivals dropping points and now lead the standings on goal difference ahead of the Urban Warriors.
The Birds, meanwhile, remain in the dreaded relegation playoff spot (15th), missing out on the chance to leapfrog Maritzburg United, who were thumped 4-1 by Free State Stars earlier in the day.
Pirates got off to a flyer and had the three points almost wrapped within the opening 11 minutes thanks to the two early goals from Mabalane.
The winger had netted a goal in a weekend cup win over United FC, his first appearance after a long injury layoff, and he continued his form against the Birds.
Mabalane opened the scoring in the fourth minute, beating goalkeeper Greg Etafia with a well-struck drive from just outside the penalty area.
And seven minutes later the hosts sent their right winger free on goal – he coolly waited for Etafia to go to ground before chipping it over the keeper to net his second of the night.
After their impressive start, the Buccaneers lost their intensity as the first half wore on, and Swallows gradually began to establish themselves as more of an attacking threat.
Their best chance to pull a goal back before the half time break arrived in the 38th minute when Siyabonga Nomvethe got away a lot shot inside the penalty area, only for Senzo Meyiwa to make a fine save.
Left Tsutsulupa was first to the rebound but he was unable to direct his hastily-taken shot on target.
The second half saw few scoring chances for either team, with Pirates seemingly content to sit on their lead, particularly as Swallows didn’t seem to pose much of a goal threat. The Birds best effort came from Oscar Machapa in the 74th minute, with the Zimbabwean attacker driving a fierce long-range shot just wide of the target.
Other than that, though, Gordon Igesund’s team looked pretty toothless. In fact, as Swallows pushed more men up in the latter stages, it looked likelier that the home team would add to their advantage by scoring on the break.
Both Thulasizwe Mbuyane and substitute Katlego Mashego had chances to do so in the dying minutes, but they both scooped their shots over the crossbar.
Orlando Pirates (2) 2 (Mabalane 4’ 11’)
Moroka Swallows 0
Pirates: (4-4-2) Meyiwa; Jele, Mahamutsa, Johannes, Lekgwathi; Mabalane (Mashego 84’), Manyisa, Jali, Segolela (Mayambela 78’); Mbuyane, Msowoya (Mabena 63’)
Swallows: (4-4-2) Etafia; Mere, Mphahlele, Nergadze, Lekgothoane; Mmotong (Ritson 59’), Tsutsulupa, Sibaya, Ritchie (Ramokala 67’); Machapa, Nomvethe (Leonard 73’)
Referee: Daniel Bennett