1 April, 2023
Orlando Pirates Reserves put on a brave fight in the closing moments of their DStv Diski Challenge fixture against AmaZulu, as they claimed a 1-0 victory despite finishing the game a man short.
Heading to Mpumalanga Stadium on the back of a Soweto Derby win, Joseph Makhanya’s troops were looking to make it two victories in as many matches against an Usuthu side desperate to bounce back after defeat in their last outing.
They were immediately tasked with absorbing early pressure from the hosts, who set up camp inside their half in the opening exchanges.
Goalkeeper Allesandro Du Plessis was tested early on his return to the starting XI when AmaZulu’s Lwandile Ngcobo went for goal from a set piece, forcing a brilliant save off the Bucs shot stopper.
There were forays into the Usuthu half from the Bucs Reserves, who were starved of out-and-out opportunities until 23 minutes in, when Jabulani Mokone was brought down inside the penalty area, prompting the referee to point to the spot.
Sonwabo Khumalo took the responsibility upon himself, and didn’t disappoint as he drove a powerful shot straight down the middle to hand Pirates the lead.
In response, the home side attacked through the flanks, but some excellent defending from the visitors denied them entry into the 18-yard area.
Bucs attackers Surprise Matjeni and Mpumelelo Ndaba both had opportunities to stretch their side’s advantage, but neither player was able to find the target as the first half drew to a close.
Buoyed by their slim lead, the visitors looked more confident at the start of the second period, but struggled to find a way into the final third.
There was an opportunity on the hour mark when Bucs midfielder Kgwadi Molepo curled a shot straight onto the crossbar, with Mohau Nkota gathering the rebound before forcing a save off Usuthu keeper Olwethu Mzimela.
Pirates maintained their dominance deep into the second half, but were dealt a blow when substitute Siphamandla Mdunge was sent off for aggressive play in the 72nd minutes, less than five minutes after being brought on.
That changed the complexion of the contest, with the Buccaneers initially trying to contain play inside the AmaZulu half before the hosts launched numerous attacks on the opposite half as they attempted to make the most of their numerical advantage.
Du Plessis was forced into an acrobatic save, diving to his left in the dying moments, and the defence stood firm until the final whistle to climb up to the top of the standings, with both second-place SuperSport United and Cape Town City in thir set to take to the field on Sunday.
Pirates Reserves XI: Du Plessis, Kabini, Ngiba, Mokone, Ndlozi, Khumalo, Molepo, Moremi, Nkota (Bule 86’), Ndaba (Mothapo 68’), Matjeni (Mdunge 68’).