Pirates secured an important win in Port Elizabeth over a gallant Maritzburg United and keep the pressure on Kaizer Chiefs
Orlando Pirates had to overcome a never-say-die performance from 10-man Maritzburg United with a 2-1 win at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday night.
The game’s opener was scored by Oupa Manyisa in the 33rd minute with Andile Jali adding a second for Pirates early in the second half following Ruben Cloete’s straight red card.
The Team of Choice looked dead and buried until Cuthbert Malajila put his side in with a chance, as his 79th minute strike left the score at 2-1. But Pirates were able to close out the game and secure a vital win in Port Elizabeth.
Maritzburg were looking to improve on a rather dismal home record this season, with only two wins during their seven home matches. Entering the game after two straight losses, Ernst’s Middendorp’s men faced a strong Pirates outfit, which only had one change from the same team which started the Soweto Derby.
Pirates had to focus on keeping pace with Kaizer Chiefs, who lie three points ahead of their rivals, and needed to overcome the “hangover” from the Soweto Derby, which ended in another disappointing draw for the Buccaneers.
In the early minutes Maritzburg displayed some of the threatening attacking play which has been the trademark of their season, with Cuthbert Malajila and Delron Buckley bursting forward with some enterprising runs.
Fierce tackles were the order of the day as the game began to take shape, with both sides employing rather aggressive styles of play. The Team of Choice displayed passion in their play, by trying to dismantle Pirates’ control of the game with good pressing in the midfield.
A first 30 minutes of intense PSL football had not resulted in any clear cut chances for either side and gradually lost its momentum, until Daine Klate battled down the right flank, shrugged of his marker and produced a fine cross into the feet of Oupa Manyisa.
Manyisa controlled the ball with ease and scored with Pirates first shot on target, driving in a low strike from close range into the bottom left corner of the net.
Pirates lead at the break through Manyisa’s impeccable strike, with Maritzburg struggling to regain their initial impetus.
The Team of Choice started brightly in the second stanza as Delron Buckley sent in a curling free-kick which caused some problems in the box for Senzo Meyiwa. However, Ruben Cloete’s straight red card in the 50th minute, resulting from a dangerous two-footed tackle in the middle of the park, made their task even more difficult.
Pirates looked to take advantage of Maritzburg’s lack of discipline and six minutes after Cloete walked off the pitch for an early shower, Andile Jali finished off a Pirates counter-attack, after latching onto Mbesuma’s cross and sending in a powerful header to make it 2-0 to the Buccaneers.
The dam wall may have begun to burst, as Pirates began to dominate play with Thabo Matlaba cutting-in from the left flank and coming close with an audacious effort.
Benni McCarthy replaced Collins Mbesuma in the 70th minute and the striker would have wanted to make an impression as he continues to strive for a spot in the Bafana Bafana squad.
But it was his opposite number Cuthbert Malajila who scored for Maritzburg in the79th minute, as the Team of Choice finished a period of sustained pressure with a timely goal. Malajila was able to control a loose ball just inside the box and unleashed a pile-driver into the top right corner.
Pirates closed out the result and join Chiefs on equal points, with the AmaKhosi set to play on Saturday evening. Maritzburg were consigned to their third successive defeat, which is a trend Ernst Middendorp will hope to break in their next fixture.