LATE goals from Thulasizwe Mbuyane and Siyabonga Sangweni handed Orlando Pirates a dramatic, come-from-behind 2-1 win over Bloemfontein Celtic on Saturday afternoon which puts them within touching distance of a second successive Absa Premiership title.
An early Letladi Madubanya goal had put Phunya Sele Sele on course for a result which would have blown the title race wide open again, but the Buccaneers dug deep and scored twice within five minutes in the last quarter of the match to retain their two-point advantage over Soweto rivals Moroka Swallows.
A win in Pirates’ last match – away to Golden Arrows next Saturday – will secure the league crown and complete a second treble in as many seasons.
Pirates started promisingly, but it was Celtic who scored an early goal. With virtually their first attack, the visitors got a free kick on the right flank which saw Letladi Madubanya head his side into a fourth-minute lead from Clifford Mulenga’s delivery.
The goal stunned the home crowd into silence and set the tone for the rest of the first half, with Pirates dominating possession but often looking vulnerable at the back whenever Phunya Sele Sele pushed numbers forward on a counter attack.
The Buccaneers bossed the midfield and usually moved the ball swiftly out to the flanks, but too often their final pass, cross or shot was simply lacking in the quality needed to prise open a determined Celtic defence.
Pirates failed to create a single clear scoring opportunity in the first 45 minutes, with their only notable efforts being long range shots from the likes of Isaac Chansa and Andile Jali that failed to even trouble goalkeeper Thabani Stemmer.
The match continued in much the same way in the second half until the 73rd minute when substitutes Ndumiso Mabena and Thulasizwe Mbuyane combined – the former crossed from the left flank for the latter, who headed back across goal to beat Stemmer’s right hand and make it 1-1.
Five minutes later the hosts surged into the lead with a second goal that was remarkably similar to the first: this time Klate crossed from the left and Siyabonga Sangweni squezzed his header past Stemmer to make it 2-1.
Orlando Pirates (0) 2 (Mbuyane 73’, Sangweni 78’)
Bloemfontein Celtic (1) 1 (Madubanya 4’)
Pirates: Josephs; Lekgwathi, Sangweni, Mahamutsa, Matlaba, Segolela (Klate 60’), Jali, Manyisa, Chansa (Mbuyane 59’), McCarthy, Rantie (Mabena 70’)
Celtic: Stemmer; Hlongwa, Mathoho, Nthethe (Fransch 70’), Mahoa, Mulenga (Mongala 46’), Mkhwanazi, Madubanya, Gamildien, Manzine (Kerspuy 62’), Bacela.-Backpagepix