Pirates Sail into Nedbank Cup Semis

Orlando Pirates marched into the Nedbank Cup semifinals after defeating AmaZulu 4-2 in a thrilling quarterfinal clash held at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.

Up against their first top-flight opposition in this year’s competition, the Buccaneers faced a tough assignment on the road against an Usuthu outfit yet to concede in the tournament.

It was the Soweto Giants who dominated a frantic start to the first half and had a shot cleared off the line as early as the second minute when Tshegofatso Mabasa was denied by Ramahlwe Mphahlele who was positioned right under the posts with goalkeeper Veli Mothwa out of the frame.

It only took the Bucs striker another two minutes to fire another shot, this time drawing a save off Veli Mothwa with a powerful right-footed effort.

Patrick Maswanganyi and Relebohile Mofokeng each had a go at Mothwa’s goal, but neither could find a way through the sea of green shirts committed at the back by the hosts.

Usuthu’s first opportunity came in the 13th minute, and it was spurned by Victor Letsoalo who could not make sufficient connection with the ball when he received an excellent cutback from Tshepang Moremi. 

This preceded a relatively quiet period, offset by a decisive moment in the game on the half-hour mark when Pule Ekstein benefited from a wayward pass deep from Deon Hotto inside Bucs territory before firing past Sipho Chaine to give the hosts the lead.

Pirates’ pursuit for the equaliser initially yielded no real chances, save for a speculative shot from Thabiso Sesane, before Mofokeng’s seemingly goalbound curler was deflected out for a corner.

They were then awarded a penalty on the stroke of halftime when Makhehlene Makhaula was brought down inside the box by defender Taariq Fielies. 

Maswanganyi was the man tasked with spot-kick duties and stepped up to calmly send  Mothwa the wrong way to send the two sides into the tunnel level at 1-1.

AmaZulu could have restored their lead early in the second half when Ekstein was played into space down the middle, but Sesane was on hand to make an excellent stop to avert the danger.

A foul on Mofokeng deep inside the hosts’ territory led to an opportunity for Pirates with a free kick awarded in a kickable position just before the hour mark.

This resulted in the Buccaneers’ second of the match as they took the lead through Kabelo Dlamini, whose excellent strike from the set piece left Mothwa rooted to the spot on its way to the bottom corner.

The visitors were only in the lead for six minutes with Usuthu drawing level soon after falling behind through Fielies, who headed in from close range to make it 2-2.

Usuthu were gifted an opportunity to edge in front inside the final 20 minutes when the Bucs defence only cleared a set piece as far as Ekstein, whose shot from inside the penalty area brushed the outer part of the crossbar.

Parity between the two sides lasted until the 82nd minute as the Soweto Giants took the lead once more after Makhaula found the net from close range against his former side following some neat work on the back post from Monnapule Saleng who guided Dlamini’s ball into the box into the midfielder’s path with a well-weighted header.  

Pirates had to contend with the home side’s frantic search for the equaliser late in the game until deep into injury time when replacement midfielder Thalente Mbatha made an excellent run on the right flank. The defence’s failure to clear the resultant cross led to an opportunity for Maswanganyi who combined with Mabasa before firing past Mothwa to put the result beyond doubt with just seconds left on the clock.

The two-goal deficit along with time running out proved too much of a hurdle for the Durbanites, with the Soweto Giants keepingtheir title defence alive with an excellent display of character.

Pirates XI: Chaine, Sesane, Maela, Hotto, Timm (Mbatha 69’), Makhaula (Ndlondlo 87’), Lebitso, Maswanganyi, Dlamini (Mthethwa 87’), Mabasa, Mofokeng (Saleng 78’). 

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