Musa Nyatama marked his return to the Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium with a goal as Orlando Pirates narrowly beat Bloemfontein Celtic 1-0 on Sunday afternoon.
After a disappointing first half which saw both sides struggle to create clear-cut goalscoring chances, Nyatama sealed the points for the visiting team with a sublime finish from inside the box midway through the second half.
The win lifts the Sea Robbers to second position on the log standings, and two points behind leaders Baroka, who were held at home by Platinum Stars in Sunday’s other league match.
In the build-up to the match, coach Micho Sredojevic promised changes to his usual starting line-up as results were clearly not forthcoming despite keeping the same core of the team since the beginning of the campaign.
It was evident that Pirates were missing Thamsanqa Gabuza in midfield, and his return against Celtic somehow inspired the players around him to give more.
Upfront though, things remained the same for the Buccaneers and they still couldn’t threaten Patrick Tignyemb except for that one attempt from a Luvuyo Memela free-kick which the Cameroonian goalkeeper tipped over the crossbar in spectacular fashion.
Tignyemb’s counterpart, Jackson Mabokgwane, was also hardly tested, but Micho would be worried with his positioning even though he’s kept a second successive cleansheet.
The Bucs keeper was nearly beaten the same way Wayne Sandilands was by Hlompho Kekana a few weeks ago. Lantshene Phalane received possession from inside his own half and spotted Mabokgwane way off his line, before unleashing a rocket towards goal.
Luckily for him, Phalane’s attempt was off target, and that’s how Mabokgwane survived a scare.
Both sides struggled to string together more than five passes on the day, especially in the final third, and that made it almost impossible for them to find the back of the net.
Celtic, despite having pacey wingers such as Kabelo Mahlasela, still couldn’t get behind the Pirates back four, and instead were let down by some poor decision-making as the atmosphere at the venue got better by the minute.
Given Mashikinya did ever so well and dictated terms in midfield, but he lacked the necessary support from his teammates, who either picked the wrong passes or rushed forward every time they were in possession.
Even Ndumiso Mabena, against his former club, couldn’t assert his authority upfront, although he would blame it on the physicality of Pirates players which made it impossible for him to have a go at Mabokgwane.
The only goal of the game came a minute after the hour-mark through Nyatama, who worked tirelessly to get the ball into the Celtic box, and after the home side’s failure to clear their lines, the midfielder toe-poked his effort past Tignyemb.
It was Nyatama’s first goal since joining the Buccaneers from Celtic, and likely many footballers, he refrained from celebrating against his former club.
Celtic had a few goalscoring opportunities, including the chance which fell kindly for Roggert Nyundu following a miscommunication between Mabokgwane and Justice Chabalala inside the Pirates box.
However, Nyundu selfishly blasted his attempt across the face of goal when he should have picked a teammate, and that, more or less, summed up the afternoon for Phunya Sele Sele.
For Pirates, it was a morale-boosting win after going six league matches without a win, but Sredojevic would still be concerned by the team’s inability to score more goals and kill off the opponents early in the game.