Pirates thump Highlands to continue fine form

Orlando Pirates continued their fine form in the Absa Premiership by thumping Highlands Park 3-1 at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday evening.

The Buccaneers stay in fifth place on the log, but have now gone seven games unbeaten and taken 17 points from the last 21 available. The Lions of the North, by contrast, have suffered three straight losses (conceding 10 goals in the process) and remain in eighth spot ahead of Golden Arrows only on goals scored.

Pirates claimed the lead just six minutes into the match, with Happy Jele’s long ball over the top picking out the run of Thembinkosi Lorch – the attacker provided a delicate first-time finish to the ball dropping over his shoulder and directed it perfectly beyond the reach of goalkeeper Kyle Peters.

The Soweto side made it 2-0 in the 11th minute, with striker Frank Mhango continuing his hot streak. The Malawian capitalised on a poor back-pass by Luckyboy Mokoena, rounded Peters and finished into an empty net from a tight angle near the left by-line.

Highlands shook off their early complacency and gained a foothold in the game, though they struggled to feed the ball to the likes of Peter Shalulile, Mothobi Mvala and Rodney Ramagalela in the final third.

Only in the final minutes of the first half did they begin to create clear chances, though Peter Shalulile missed out from a free header and goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands made a fine reaction save to keep out a Limbikani Mzava header from a corner kick.

Yet Highlands’ spell of pressure did not prevent them conceding a third goal in injury time before the interval, with Paseka Mako picking up a loose ball, moving inside from the left and firing home a right-footed shot from the edge of the box to put the Buccaneers firmly in charge at 3-0 up.

Pirates nearly netted a fourth in the opening seconds of the second stanza, with Fortune Makaringe heading on target from a free kick only to see Peters make an excellent save.

Highlands struggled to reassert themselves in the match, prompting the introduction of Mokete Mogaila in place of ‘Yeye’ Letsholonyane just after the hour mark. The young midfielder showed a flash of his potential with a strong run and shot in the 77th minute, but his effort didn’t trouble Sandilands.

Yet four minutes later another Highlands substitute, Mlungisi Mbunjana, pulled a goal back with a brilliant solo effort. The midfielder picked up the ball inside his own half, drove forward and unleashed a long range shot which swerved wickedly to beat Sandilands and make it 3-1.

The visibly tired Buccaneers wilted in the dying stages as Highlands looked to mount a late comeback but it was too little, too late for the team based in Makhulong.

Pirates will return to Premiership action next weekend when they host AmaZulu on Saturday 25 January, while Highlands must wait a further week to host Baroka on Saturday 1 February.

Orlando Pirates (3) 3 (Lorch 6’, Mhango 11’, Mako 45+3’)

Highlands Park (0) 1 (Mbunjana 81’)

Pirates: Sandilands, Jele, Nyauza, Sam (Ndengane 68’), Mabaso (Dube 74’), Motshwari, Makaringe, Mako, Memela, Lorch (Mabasa 83’), Mhango

Highlands: Peters, L. Mokoena, Fransman, Mzava, Ramoraka (Jooste 86’), Mbatha, Letsholonyane (Mogaila 63’), Mbhele (Mbunjana 76’), Mvala, Ramagalela, Shalulile