Pirates make tofees of AmaZulu with back-to-back wins

ABBUBAKER Mobara of AmaZulu FC tackles Patrick Maswanganyi of Orlando Pirates during DStv Premiership at Orlando Stadium on Friday. | BackpagePix

ABBUBAKER Mobara of AmaZulu FC tackles Patrick Maswanganyi of Orlando Pirates during DStv Premiership at Orlando Stadium on Friday. | BackpagePix

Published Apr 20, 2024



Mabasa 75’

AMAZULU (0)(0)

ORLANDO STADIUM - The Sea Robbers have – temporarily – cruised to the promised land in the DStv Premiership – the second-place spot – after a string of consistent results.

Orlando Pirates beat AmaZulu 1-0 at a packed Orlando last night to displace Stellenbosch, who’ll only be in action today against TS Galaxy, on goal difference.

It was Pirates’ back-to-back win over AmaZulu in a week as they beat them 4-2 in the Nedbank Cup quarter-final at Moses Mabhida last weekend.

In the bigger scheme of things, this was Pirates’ third successive win in a row – their last league win being the 7-1 mauling of Golden Arrows here in Orlando.

Having Pirates finished last season on a high - second to qualify for the Champions League – they’ll be optimistic of repeating that feat.

For Usuthu, meanwhile, their top eight aspirations took a huge knock with this loss. And they’ll have to make up for lost time in the remaining six games.

The Spanish connection of Riveiro and Pablo Franco has added a midas touch of rivalry to the clash between the inland Pirates and coastal AmaZulu.

So much so that while the match was still goalless at the break, the fight for the ‘bragging rights’ and three points had long brewed in the first stanza.

Referee Cedric Muvhali did his best to ensure the two sides didn't bay for each other’s blood. But whether his calls were spot on is a story for another day.

The clash lived up to its hype from the outset, with Pirates eager to pick up where they left off in Durban as they took the game to Usuthu.

Pirates were silk but slow in their build-up as Patrick Maswanganyi, Kabelo Dlamini and Relebohile Mofokeng wanted to exploit the pockets of spaces.

Usuthu had other ideas: quickness on transition. That seemed to work as it put Pirates under pressure as Victor Letsoalo hit the upright from Mobara’s set-piece.

Franco was positive about their approach too, casually standing on the edge of his touchline with his hands firmly in his pocket, only cajoling his troops when need be.

His opposite number Riveiro seemed restless in search of his second successive – and third - win against Franco as he was in and out of his bench.

Franco would soon lose his cool after Muvhali judged for a set-piece against Abbubaker Mobara who stopped Maswangayi who was through on goal.

The 43-year-old’s mood turned from bad to worse as he fell on his knees and covered his face with his hands after Muvhali showed Mobara a straight red after the incident.

You’d bet he was asking what his team had done to deserve such poor officiating against them having also cried foul for the same incident in Durban.

There was no time for answers though. Instead, Usuthu had to create their own luck and push for the lead – and winner – with the 10 men.

Sipho Chaine denied Ethan Brooks that lead on the stroke of half-time, the Pirates’ goalkeeper parrying away the effort as Usuthu camped in his box.

“The Ghost”, inspired by the back-to-back convincing wins, filled the lower stands to almost full capacity to provide extra fuel to Pirates’ tanks.

And after Chaine kept his team in the game early in the second half, saving Letsoalo’s shot from close-range, they continued to rally behind the team.

Unfortunately, their voices were so loud that they got into the heads of some of their players, with Maswanganyi making unnecessary, wasteful tricks.

But there were those that heeded to their support positively and fruitfully - substitute Monnapule Saleng running at Usuthu’s defence tirelessly.

Saleng made his contribution as his cut-back in front of the face of goal was tapped home by Tshegofatso Mabasa for the winner – and his 11th league goal of the season.