Maritzburg United 0-1 Orlando Pirates: Vincent Pule inspires Bucs to victory in Pietermaritzburg
Vincent Pule's solitary goal helped the Buccaneers overcome a relegation-threatened Team of Choice side in Pietermaritzburg

Orlando Pirates opened a three-point gap at the top of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) standings after defeating Maritzburg United 1-0 in a match which was played on Wednesday night.

The Team of Choice were keen to avoid their second successive defeat having lost 1-0 to Highlands Park away in their previous league game.

Fortune Makaringe started alongside Miguel Timm in midfield, while 19-year-old striker Bongokuhle Hlongwane was handed his PSL debut by Eric Tinkler.

On the other hand, Bucs were eyeing their fourth consecutive victory having edged out Free State Stars 2-1 at home in their last league match.

Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevic named an offensive team as Vincent Pule, Luvuyo Memela, Thembinkosi Lorch and Justin Shonga all started in attack.

The Buccaneers dominated the match from the start with Thembinkosi Lorch causing havoc for the Team of Choice defence.

The South Africa international should have scored twice in the first 15 minutes of the match, but he was denied by Maritzburg goalkeeper Richard Ofori and Nazeer Allie with a goal-line clearance.

The hosts then grew into the match and Pirates nearly rued their missed chances when Hlongwane's deflected effort went inches wide of the target.

Hlongwane, who is a South Africa Under-20 international, then forced Pirates' experienced keeper Wayne Sandilands into a save from a header with the Pirates defence caught ball-watching.

The two teams were locked at 0-0 at half-time following a first half which saw both teams create chances which they could not convert.

Pirates were the better side after the restart, but they were wasteful as the likes of Shonga and Memela were guilty of missing the target.

Zambian marksman Shonga placed his effort wide of the target from close range, before former Ajax Cape Town winger Memela hit the side-netting from a good position.

However, the visitors never lost hope as they continued to probe and they managed to break the deadlock through Pule when he scored from close range from Memela's cross to make it 1-0 to Pirates in the 67th minute.

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Maritzburg, who came into the match having netted the majority of their goals (43.8%) in the final 15 minutes of their league games, introduced former Pirates striker Thabiso Kutumela as they looked to snatch a late equalizer.

Pirates though contained the hosts in the latter stages of the match and ultimately they ran out 1-0 winners on the night.

The victory saw Pirates open a three-point gap at the top of the league standings with two games left, while relegation-threatened Maritzburg remained 16th on the table.

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