Bucs Edge Past Stubborn Usuthu

Orlando Pirates dug deep to earn a hard-fought 1-0 win against a 10-man AmaZulu in their DStv Premiership encounter at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.

It was a second win over Usuthu in as many weeks for the Buccaneers, who move a spot up the standings to second place after collecting all three points.

After engaging in a thrilling cup encounter that produced six goals at Moses Mabhida, the league clash in Soweto began in subdued fashion as each side produced a solitary shot at goal to show inside the opening 20 minutes.

Patrick Maswanganyi was the first to fire goalward in the fourth minute, finding Veli Mothwa’s gloves with a miscued attempt after making a threatening run into the penalty area. This was followed up by a close call at the other end just five minutes later when Victor Letsoalo deflected an excellent ball from Mobara towards the Pirates goal, with the upright coming to the hosts’ rescue.

The game was turned on its head just after the 20-minute mark when Maswanganyi went on another storming run before meeting an overzealous challenge from Mobara just outside the penalty area, with the Usuthu defender shown a straight red after his foul was deemed to have prevented a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

Kabelo Dlamini took the resultant free kick and sent his shot drifting wide of the target, and that turned out to be Pirates’ last opportunity for the best part of the first period as the visitors closed shop at the back.

Usuthu had a chance to edge ahead on the stroke of halftime through a well-struck shot from Ethan Brooks, who drew an excellent save from Bucs keeper Sipho Chaine.

Pirates piled on the pressure early in the second half without carving a clear path to the AmaZulu goal and were nearly caught out against the run of play when a misplaced pass was intercepted by Ben Motshwari, whose long-range shot was kept out by Chaine.

The introduction of fresh legs in the form of Thalente Mbatha, Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo, and Monnapule Saleng injected some energy into the hosts’ attack as they continued their search for the opener.

They found the breakthrough in the 75th minute when Maswanganyi released Saleng out wide with the replacement attacker delivering an excellent ball into the middle for Tshegofatso Mabasa, who only needed a single touch to make it 1-0.

Usuthu’s pursuit of the equaliser presented chances for the Buccaneers, who had some bright moments in transition play as the game drew to a close. The best of these came from the boot of Saleng who darted down the right flank before cutting inside to shoot, drawing a save from Mothwa.

The home side were able to use their numerical advantage to great effect as they sought to close out the game, controlling possession during an extended injury time to notch up back-to-back victories against the men from KwaZulu-Natal.

Pirates XI: Chaine, Xoki, Sesane, Makhaula (Mbatha 46’), Timm (Ndlondlo 62’), Dlamini (Saleng 62’), Lebitso, Hotto, Maswanganyi, Mofokeng (Kimvuidi 73’), Mabasa.

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