Gabuza inspires Pirates to winning start

Orlando Pirates defeated Chippa United 1-0 in an Absa Premiership match at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday.

The victory open their 2017/18 season with a hard-fought victory thanks to Thamsanqa Gabuza's powerful header.

The Buccaneers dominated the match from the start - making good forward passes and they should have taken the lead just seven minutes into the game.

However, United goalkeeper Brighton Mhlongo made a fantastic save to deny Pirates playmaker Mpho Makola, who had been sent through on goal.

Thamsanqa Gabuza, who was leading the Pirates attack, had a chance to break the deadlock in the 20th minute, but he headed the ball wide of the target.

The Chilli Boys threatened on the half-hour mark and Pirates keeper Wayne Sandilands had to come off his line to deny United striker Moeketsi Sekola.

The Pirates defence was also caught napping two minutes later, but Kurt Lentjies, who was making his debut for United, fired just over the crossbar.

Gabuza then made amends for his earlier miss as he headed home Innocent Maela's well-taken cross to make it 1-0 to Pirates in the 37th minute.

United tried to level matters in the remaining minutes of the first-half, but Pirates stood firm at the back, and the hosts were 1-0 up at the interval.

Dan Malesela, the United coach, made a change five minutes into the second-half - introducing Zaphaniah Mbokoma for Lentjies.

Sekola created a chance for the Chilli Boys in the 63rd minute, but Abel Mabaso's effort was blocked as the visitors searched for the equalising goal.

Both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances as they lost possession in the final third with the match entering its closing stages.

New Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic introduced last season's league Golden Boot runner-up Tendai Ndoro in the 77th minute as the hosts looked to double their lead.

However, the momentum was with the Chilli Boys in the late stages of the match with the Buccaneers forced to defend too deep.

Sandilands produced a late great save after United midfielder Mark Mayambela had played a dangerous free-kick in the Pirates box and ultimately, the home side held on to win 1-0 on the evening.