29 April, 2023
A last-gasp goal gave Orlando Pirates Reserves a crucial 2-1 win in their DStv Diski Challenge clash against Mamelodi Sundowns held at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium on Saturday.
Having been given a bit of a lifeline in their title aspirations via a SuperSport United loss, the young Buccaneers sought to regain some lost ground in their charge for silverware as they came up against a resurgent Sundowns outfit on a high after winning their two most recent games.
It was a tentative start at both ends, with no real chances for either side to boast about in the early exchanges.
Bucs forward Mohau Nkota did come close to opening the scoring in the 11th minute, only to see his header from close range deflected out of play.
The teenager was again in the thick of things midway through the first half, working his way into a position to shoot but miscuing his effort at goal.
Pirates were made to rue that missed opportunity just four minutes later as the defence failed to deal with a ball across the face of goal, allowing an easy tap-in for Thulani Zandamela.
In their push for the equaliser, the Buccaneers continued to be starved of opportunities, bar for a long-range attempt from midfielder Sonwabo Khumalo, whose shot went over the bar three minutes from the break.
There was a bit more cohesion in the Soweto Giants’ approach in the second half, as they managed to do most of the attacking in trying to level matters.
The equaliser came seven minutes into the second period when Sundowns goalkeeper Sizwe Ramabulane wandered off his line to make a clearance, only succeeding in punching the ball straight at Mehluleli Maphumulo, and the Bucs striker needed no second invitation in heading into the unmanned net to make it 1-1.
Spurred on by the goal, they kept the pressure on the visitors, with Khumalo and Maphumulo each causing problems for the defence.
The final 10 minutes of the contest saw Pirates throw everything at Sundowns with Nkota narrowly missing the target after making a fantastic run on the left before popping up on the right side of the field to draw an excellent save from Ramabulane.
Sundowns had an opportunity at the other end, but goalkeeper Siyabonga Dladla was perfectly-positioned to make a relatively easy save to stop a header from close range.
It looked as if the two teams would share the spoils when Nkota was denied from point-blank range once more with a minute remaining. However, a stroke of luck in injury time allowed the Kimberly-born forward a last-gasp opportunity, which he took with both hands as he turned possession over from a loose pass on the edge of the box before guiding the ball into the net to hand his side the lead at a crucial moment.
With not much time remaining, the Buccaneers were able to hang on to their lead as they bagged a crucial win, which brought them up to second place, just two points behind SuperSport.
Pirates Reserves XI: Dladla, Ngiba, Kabini, Mokone, Ndlozi, Molepo, Khumalo (Bule 90+2’), Moremi (May 87’), Nkota, Mdunge, Maphumulo (Mndebele 75’).