Maritzburg United 0-1 Orlando Pirates: Bucs edge Team of Choice to move closer to chasing pack
Jose Ali Meza, Maritzburg United & Thulani Hlatshwayo, Orlando Pirates, January 2021
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Hotto's third goal of the season inspired the Buccaneers to a much-needed victory in KwaZulu-Natal

Orlando Pirates had to grind out a 1-0 victory over Maritzburg United in a PSL match which was played at Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday evening.

The only goal of the encounter was netted by Deon Hotto in the first-half and the Buccaneers were able to contain the Team of Choice for the rest of the match. 

The Team of Choice were desperate for a victory in order to redeem themselves after succumbing to an embarrassing 3-0 defeat to PSL debutants TS Galaxy at home in midweek.

Coach Ernst Middendorp named six defenders in the starting line-up with Kwanda Mngonyama deployed in midfield, while Clayton Daniels marshalled a five-man defence.

Meanwhile, Bucs were targeting nothing but a victory as they were winless in two matches having been held to a 0-0 draw by Lamontville Golden Arrows at home on Tuesday.

Middendorp's counterpart, Josef Zinnbauer made two changes to the team which faced Arrows as he handed 18-year-old midfielder Azola Tshobeni his official debut. 

The Team of the Choice sat back to absorb any pressure from the Buccaneers, who dominated possession with Thabang Monare being allowed to distribute the ball from midfield.

Maritzburg goalkeeper Bongani Mpandle made two fine saves to deny Vincent Pule with the Pirates midfielder looking to score from outside the box. 

The home side then suffered a blow as Daniels picked up an injury and he was placed by fellow veteran central defender Nazeer Allie nine minutes before the half-hour mark.

Bongani Sam was looking lively down the left-hand side and he had a chance to score after being set-up by Tshobeni, but the left-back's effort was blocked in the opposition's box.

The visitors continued to press the Team of Choice and the pressure paid off in the 40th minute when Sam delivered a delightful cross which was turned home by Hotto to make it 1-0 to Pirates.

Pirates then contained Maritzburg and the Soweto giants were deservedly leading 1-0 during the half-time break. 

Middendorp introduced attackers Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Daylon Claasen and Thabiso Kutumela prior to the start of the second-half as Maritzburg looked to level matters.

However, the Team of Choice were frustrated by the Buccaneers' tight defence and the hosts tried their luck from outside the box through the likes of Malebogo Modise and Keagan Buchanan.

Pirates keeper Richard Ofori dealt well with the long-range shots from Modise and Buchanan as the Ghana international kept his former side at bay.

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Monare then made a crucial block to deny Maritzburg striker Hlongwane, whose low shot from close range was heading for Ofori's near-post. 

The last chance of the match fell for Sibusiso Hlubi and the attacking midfielder was fantastically denied by Ofori and the late save ensured that Pirates emerged 1-0 winners over Maritzburg on the day.

The win took Pirates to fourth spot on the league standings - three points behind third-placed SuperSport United and six behind joint leaders, Mamelodi Sundowns and Swallows FC.

On the other hand, Maritzburg remained a place (14th) above the relegation zone on the log and they will face Arrows on January 30, while Pirates are set to take on Galaxy on January 27.