Buccaneers held by Celtic, but go top

Orlando Pirates’ hopes of a third successive Absa Premiership win were dashed on Tuesday night when they were held 1-1 at the Orlando Stadium by Bloemfontein Celtic.

However, the result sees the Buccaneers move to first place on the log with 40 points from 23 matches, while Phunya Sele Sele stay in eighth on 31 points from the same number of league outings.

After a couple of half chances at either end in the early minutes, the game settled into a pattern which saw Pirates dominating possession and looking to break down Celtic’s disciplined and well-organised defence.

It says something for Celtic’s rear guard that the Buccaneers’ first notable effort on goal only arrived in the 33rd minute, with Vincent Pule cutting inside off the right flank and firing a long-range shot which was comfortably saved by Patrick Tignyemb.

Celtic then claimed the lead very much against the run of play on 37 minutes, with defender Tshepo Rikhotso stabbing home a shot from close range after Pirates were unable to clear their lines from a corner kick.

Phunya Sele Sele held a 1-0 lead at the break, while the hosts looked much livelier in the early minutes of the second half, with Shonga’s flicked header from Pule’s cross forcing a sharp save from Tignyemb.

Yet the team in green and white should have doubled their advantage in the 53rd minute, with Lucky Baloyi somehow missing from close range when he was beautifully teed up by Menzi Masuku.

Pirates created a great chance to equalise in the 74th minute when Lorch burst through the defence, but he was denied at close range by Tignyemb, who managed to deflect the attacker’s effort onto the outside of his left-hand post.

The Soweto giants didn’t have to wait much longer for their equaliser, with Justin Shonga opening space in the penalty area with some great footwork, which allowed substitute Luvoyo Memela to sweep home a low shot for 1-1 in the 80th minute.

Pirates laid siege to the Celtic goal in what remained of the game, but were unable to find another crack in the defence of the Bloemfontein team. Yet, thanks to Mamelodi Sundowns’ loss at Cape Town City, Bucs rose to the top of the standings.

Celtic will be back in Premiership action on March 15 when they host Bidvest Wits, while Pirates will have to wait until March 29 – after the international break – for their next league game, which is at home to Black Leopards.

Orlando Pirates (0) 1 (Memela 80’)

Bloemfontein Celtic (1) 1 (Rikhotso 37’)

Pirates: Sandilands, Jele, Ndengane, Maela, Mabaso (Qalinge 61’), Nyatama, Pule, Mahachi (Gabuza 72’), Lorch, Shonga, Mulenga (Memela 59’)

Celtic: Tignyemb, Sam, Mahashe, Rikhotso, Mabena (Pfumbidzai 74’), Tani, Maema, Mashikinya, Masuku (Letsoalo 61’), Phalane (Kobedi 86’), Baloyi