Pirates hold Maritzburg in thriller

Orlando Pirates came from three goals down to earn a 3-3 draw against Maritzburg United in pulsating Absa Premiership game played at a rain drenched Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday night.

Mondli Cele, Evans Rusike and Brian Onyango put Ernst Middendorp’s men 3-0 up inside 36 minutes. But Pirates were to score in the first half through Thabo Rakhale before Thabo Matlaba and Kermit Erasmus netted in the second stanza in front of a full house in Pietermaritzburg.

The Team of Choice were off to the perfect start when Rusike showed excellent attacking intent as he skinned Tshepo Gumede before pulling the ball back across goal where his inch-perfect pass located Mondli Cele, who was clinical with his shot from 12 yards out.

While United went on to have a couple more promising moments in attack, Pirates began to tighten their grip on proceedings as they dominated possession, attacking with pace although without much of an end product.

Half way through the opening stanza, a powerful swerving drive from all of 35-yards out from Matlaba stung the hands of Tawfeeq Salie as he did just enough to parry for a corner.

Then from a blistering counter attack on 32 minutes, Rusike picked up the ball near the half way line before playing a one-two with the impressive Deolin Mekoa, racing into the box for the return ball while showing great composure to hold off a defender and chip the on-coming Mhlongo.

And just a couple of minutes later it was sensationally 3-0 to the home side when Mekoa swung in a quality cross from the left which Brian Onyango squeezed over the line from close range after he had made the aerial ball his own.

United had shown great desire, intent and application, and it could not be argued that they deserved their lead.

But their advantage was cut to two when Rakhale struck with a wonderful individual effort, arrowing the ball from some distance outside the box across the body of Salie and in at the far post; 3-1.

The Sea Robbers were not too far pulling another goal back three minutes before half time when Erasmus’ header dipped just over the bar.

But it only took Eric Tinkler’s men eight second half minutes to get their second goal, Mataba scoring for the second game running when he slammed the ball home from 10 metres out after Maritzburg had failed to clear their box properly.

The game was now on a knife-edge, Pirates on the front foot and nearly on level terms in the 59th minute when Tendai Ndoro drew a superb reflex save at the near post from Salie.

Erasmus then squandered a good opportunity when he chose to head instead of shoot from 10-yards out, while at the other end Mekoa’s stinging drive tested Mhlongo.

The comeback was however to be completed for Pirates in the 80th minute when Erasmus scrambled the ball home after the home defence had failed to deal with Thabo Qalinge’s back post header.

Matitzburg United (3) 3 (Cele 8’, Rusike 32’, Onyango 36’)
Orlando Pirates (1) 3 (Rakhale 37’, Matlaba 53’, Erasmus 80’)

Maritzburg: Salie, Mngonyama, Onyango, Zulu, Teyise, Booysen, Cele (van Wyk 59’), Paintsil, Mekoa M, Mekoa D, Rusike (Hatog 77’)

Pirates: Mhlongo, Nyauza, Matlaba, Gumede, Gcaba, Sarr, Masalesa (Ntshumayelo 46’), Rakhale, Motupa (Ndoro 46’), Myeni (Qalinge 69’), Erasmus