By FOCUS REPORTER
The washed out Absa Premiership encounter between Bloemfontein Celtic and Kaizer Chiefs yesterday has guaranteed Orlando Pirates bragging rights at the top of the log this week. On Saturday the Buccaneers staged a fight back of years gone by to pip Bidvest Wits 3-2 at Orlando Stadium. Pirates were trailing 2-0 at the break, after Stanton Fredericks and Sifiso Vilakazi had scored for the Students.
Pirates came back strongly in the second half to score three goals through Isaac Chansa (brace) and Katlego Mashego to ensure that they pocketed all three points on offer. The victory also secured the top spot for the home side, after champions SuperSport United had done them a favour by pulling down previous log-leaders Mamelodi Sundowns via a 1-0 defeat at Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane, also on Saturday night.
But Pirates would have surrendered their lofty position had Chief won away to Celtic.
Brushing aside the pleasantries that preceded th e i r h o m e m a t c h a t O r l a n d o, Pirates went down to business immediately as they heard the first whistle. Their counterparts responded with equal venom and grit, and what followed was a spectacle dished out by the two teams.
It could have had a different ending, though had Meyiwa not committed the kind of silly mistakes in the 25th and 29th minutes respectively.
Pirates didn’t take any time in signaling their attacking intent, when Isaac Chansa zoomed past Wits defenders in the seventh minute, but his attempt at goal was well blocked by Wits’ Michael Morton.
Pirates’ keeper, Senzo Meyiwa made a brilliant save in the 22nd minute to deny Patrick Pungwayo what looked like a goal when he parried the shot for a corner.
At that stage of the game, Wits had an upper hand and deservedly found a break through courtesy of Stanton Fredericks in the 25th minute when he capitalized on Meyiwa’s failure to handle Sifiso Myeni’s cross.
The goal seemed to have ignited the visitors as they enjoyed a threatening spell for the next four minutes and it came as no surprise when under pressure, Meyiwa once more fumbled a shot from Sipho Mngomezulu and Sifiso Vilakazi capitalized on Meyiwa’s second mistake to score his side’s second goal in the 29th minute.
Bidvest Wits went to the break with a two-nil lead.
After a tongue lashing from the coach, Pirates regrouped in the second half, but still Wits gave them a tough time. Roger de Sa’s charges played a defensive game and it was difficult to penetrate them.
Daren Keet produced a stunning save when he denied Oupa Manyesa in the 47th minute.
As Wits retreated into a defensive shell, their opponents pressed hard, trying to unlock the stubborn Clevers Boys’ defence lead by Captain Tefu Mashamaite, but failure to break their opponents’ defensive wall was a source of frustration for Rudi Krol’s charges.
Once again, Pirates proved their acumen, and their play was characterized by fluidity and good passing, but fell short in-front of goals.
Pirates could have at least scored their first in the 60th minute, but two consecutive shots from Oupa Manyesa and Mark Mayambela hit the post.
Pirates never gave up fighting and finally scored in the 68th minute through Isaac Chansa.
Mesmeric runs by substitute Mark Mayambela on the right caused Wits defence considerable concern. This became obvious when he zoomed past Parick Pungwayo before crossing to Isaac Chansa to score his second for the day with an easy tap in, in the 72nd minute.
At this stage, Pirates were dictating terms for their opponents and much to the delight of their fans.
With the ball now swinging from end to end, with both sides looking for the third goal, the action kept the fans on the edge of their seats.
But it was Pirates who came up victorious after another substitute; Katlego Mashego sent their fans into raptures. The Pirates striker capitalized on Kampamba Chintu’s defensive error before beating Daren Keet in Wits’ goal to score Pirates’ winning goal during the referee’s optional time. This means the Bucs now have 32 points from 16 matches, while fierce rivals are fourth with 29 points from 15 games.
In the Tshwane Derby played in Polokwane, SuperSport United’s Kermit Erasmus scored in the 83rd minute to give the defending champions a morale-boosting 1-0 win over Sundowns.
The rest of the 16-round results are: Platinum Stars 0 Ajax Cape Town 3, Golden Arrows 3 Maritzburg United 0, Vasco da Gama 1 Free State Stars 1, Santos 1 Mpumalanga Black Aces 0, Moroka Swallows 0 AmaZulu 4.