Pirates open new season with victory over Celtic

Orlando Pirates opened their new Absa Premiership campaign with a 3-1 win over Bloemfontein Celtic at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday evening, joining Mamelodi Sundowns at the top of the table early on.

The Buccaneers secured all three points thanks to strikes from Augustine Mulenga, Innocent Maela and debutant Frank Mhango, while Phunya Sele Sele’s consolation goal came from Mzwanele Mahashe.

Pirates got off to a flyer and claimed the lead as early as the sixth minute: Musa Nyatama played a beautiful pass from midfield to pick out a great run from Augustine Mulenga: the Zambian forward controlled the ball and provided a composed finish past goalkeeper Sipho Chaine to make it 1-0.

That was not the only early blow suffered by Celtic, as experienced defender Wandisile Letlabika picked up an injury and was replaced by Mzwanele Mahashe in the opening minutes.

The Buccaneers controlled much of the first half but struggled to create further clear-cut chances to add to their advantage, with Phunya Sele Sele working hard to hold the hosts at bay and keep themselves in the contest.

And the Bloemfontein side was rewarded with a goal out of nowhere in the 39th minute, as a free kick picked out Mahashe, whose initial touch put the ball up in the air and drew Wayne Sandilands off his line – the defender then sent a looping header over the goalkeeper to make it 1-1.

The teams were level at the break, but Pirates needed just 11 minutes of the second stanza to reclaim the ascendancy. A corner kick found Innocent Maela unmarked in the box and he powered a header into the back of the net to put Bucs 2-1 up.

Celtic very nearly struck back for a second time through Menzi Masuku, who got away a low shot from the left of the penalty area in the 75th minute but Sandilands made an excellent finger-tip save to push the ball just past his far post.

Yet any hope the away side had of a comeback was taken away in the 78th minute when former Celtic man Frank Mhango chased down a defender, stole possession and swept a shot past Chaine to make it 3-1 and seal the victory for Pirates.

Celtic will be back in league action next Sunday, August 11, when they host Golden Arrows, while Pirates’ next PSL encounter will be away to SuperSport United on Wednesday, August 14.

Orlando Pirates (1) 3 (Mulenga 6’, Maela 56’, Mhango 78’)

Bloemfontein Celtic (1) 1 (Mahashe 39’)

Orlando Pirates: Sandilands, Monyane, Jele, Ndengane, Maela, Motshwari, Nyatama, Memela (Dlamini 59’), Mulenga (Mbekile 87’), Shonga (Mhango 72’), Pule

Bloemfontein Celtic: Chaine, Tani, Letlabika (Mahashe 6’), Rikhotso, Pfumbidzai, Masuku, Phalanae, Baloyi, Maema (Fikizolo 72’), Maloisane (Potsane 60’), Mabena