Resurgent Pirates stun Sundowns in showdown

Orlando Pirates have done Absa Premiership leaders Kaiser Chiefs a massive favour by defeating nearest chasers Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 at a sold-out Orlando Stadium on Wednesday evening.

The result means Chiefs continue to lead the log by nine points from the Brazilians, who have now played the same number of games as the Amakhosi. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, move up to fifth place on the log.

Pirates looked the likelier scorers early on, but Sundowns soon began to threaten and gave notice of their potency with a 15th-minute free kick which found Anele Ngcongca unmarked in the penalty area: the defender’s downward header had the beating of Wayne Sandilands but not the post.

Two minutes later Sandilands made a sharp save to turn away a goal-bound shot from Thapelo Morena, while the rebound fell kindly for Gaston Sirino but he saw his effort well blocked by Happy Jele.

Pirates appeared to be under the gun with Sundowns building pressure, but the hosts claimed the lead on the 30-minute mark through a beautifully-worked goal: a slick passing move ended with Luvoyo Memela playing Frank Mhango in on goal and the Malawian provided a cool finish to make it 1-0.

The teams traded half chances up to the interval, but there was no further addition to the score line, leaving the Buccaneers with a narrow advantage at halftime. ‘Downs made a midfield change at the start of the second stanza, with Andile Jali (who had picked up a yellow card) replaced by Tiyani Mabunda in the engine room.

Pirates continued to look dangerous with their pace and movement, though clear chances were hard to come by in the second half. Sundowns also struggled to open up the home side’s defence, though the excellence of their delivery from dead-ball situations was a constant menace for Pirates.

The Brazilians nearly equalised in the 78th minute, with a deflected shot from Sirino hitting Sandilands’ left-hand post before bouncing along the goal line to hit the other upright, and the subsequent rebound was then put wide by substitute Lebohang Maboe.

That proved to be the last clear chance for Sundowns, leaving Pirates to pick up all three points and put a massive dent in the visitors’ hopes of defending their league championship.

The teams will return to Premiership action this weekend: Pirates will host Highlands Park on Saturday evening and Sundowns will be away to Tshwane derby rivals SuperSport United on Sunday.

Orlando Pirates (1) 1 (Mhango 30’)

Mamelodi Sundowns 0

Pirates: Sandilands, Mabaso, Jele, Nyauza, Maela (Ndengane 81’), Motshwari, Makaringe, Pule, Lorch (Dube 87’), Memela (Monyane 56’), Mhango

Sundowns: Onyango, Ngcongca, Madisha, Lebusa, Langerman, Morena, Kekana, Jali (Mabunda 46’), Mkhulise (Mahlambi 66’), Vilakazi (Maboe 77’), Sirino