Buccaneers Stunned at Home by Stellies

Orlando Pirates came second best in a thrilling DStv Premiership encountered as they fell to a 3-2 defeat against Stellenbosch at Orlando Stadium on Friday night.

In their final fixture of 2023, the hosts relinquished a healthy advantage as the men from the Cape Winelands staged a remarkable comeback to steal all three points on the night, bagging their first league victory in the famed arena in Soweto.

Looking to capitalise on possible ring-rustiness from their opponents, who last took to the field nearly two weeks ago, the Buccaneers quickly controlled matters during the opening exchanges. They were however only able to create a couple of half-chances in the first 10 minutes, with Evidence Makgopa and Karim Kimvuidi each directing the ball out for a goal kick after working their way behind the defence.

It did not take long for the visitors to grow into the contest, as they drew a save off Bucs keeper Melusi Buthelezi through Devin Titus’ firm effort from outside the box 12 minutes in.

Pirates’ best chance of the opening quarter came from Deon Hotto, who was played in by Patrick Maswanganyi on the left before grazing the outer part of the upright with his shot at goal. Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo followed that up with a shot of his own which caught a deflection inside the penalty area, resulting in an uncomplicated gather for Stellies shot-stopper Sage Stephens.

They remained on the driving seat for much of the opening half and were presented a chance to take the lead just after the half-hour mark when Thabo Moloisane conceded after using his hand to block Tapelo Xoki’s header from a Bucs set piece.

It was the skipper who stepped up to the spot for the hosts, effortlessly sending Stephens the wrong way to make it 1-0.

The two sides could have gone into the break level on the scorecard as Stellenbosch midfielder Jayden Adams pounced on a loose ball inside the box, but could only send his effort across the Pirates goal.

The start of the second period was more of a subdued affair, but there were close calls at both ends around the 55th minute.

The first of these fell to the visitors, who spurned a straightforward chance when an unmarked Moloisane headed over the crossbar from right in front. Pirates’ response involved a swift move upfield, which resulted in a well-taken curling shot from Thembinkosi Lorch, who pushed the ball inches wide of the target.

It only took a few minutes for the home side to double their lead, and their second goal came after an excellent cross from the right which was cleverly flicked over the line by Makgopa for his fourth in the league this season.

That happened to be moments before disaster, with Stellenbosch turning the game on its head as they netted three times inside the space of 10 minutes.

They halved the deficit in the 69th minute after striker Iqraam Rayners found himself in acres of space on the left before firing past Buthelezi. 

Their equaliser came from the boot of Titus in the 71st minute who latched onto the rebound from a save made by the Bucs shot-stopper, and was followed by a strike from replacement striker Andre de Jong as he completed the comeback with 13 minutes remaining on the clock.

Having gone behind for the first time in the contest, Pirates could have drawn level in rather fortuitous fashion when Lorch’s ball into the box required an alert Stephens to stop it from sneaking into the net.

Buthelezi made a crucial stop of his own in the 85th minute after going one-on-one with De Jong, but it was the Stellies goalminder who had the final say in the contest as he pulled off one more spectacular stop in injury time, keeping out a goalbound shot from a free kick taken by Hotto.

It was a disappointing finish to the year in the end for the Soweto Giants, who fell to a second consecutive defeat as they conceded a league double to the visitors.

Pirates XI: Buthelezi, Xoki, Ndah, Makaringe, Hotto, Timm (Baloni 87’), Ndlondlo, Maswanganyi (Mofokeng 87’), Lorch, Kimvuidi (Dlamini 74), Makgopa (Pule 74’).

 

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