Pule strike keeps Bucs top, Maritzburg down
Vincent Pule's solitary strike in the second half proved the difference for Orlando Pirates as they edged past a spirited Maritzburg United side at Harry Gwala Stadium last night.
The win ensured Pirates consolidate their top spot, going three points clear of second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns, who are a game behind the league schedule due to their CAF Champions League involvement.
Defeat meant Maritzburg now need a miracle and favours from other clubs to stave off relegation as they remain bottom in the Absa Premiership standings.
It was an exhilarating first half. Both teams showed their intent to score from the onset. But poor finishing at both ends was the reason the match was deadlocked at 0-0 at halftime.
Pirates started brighter than Maritzburg, with Thembinkosi Lorch unleashing a decent shot inside the first five minutes. The Team of Choice goalkeeper Richard Ofori was alert, thwarting danger for a corner-kick.
Lorch and Pule, who looked rejuvenated, were at the centre of Bucs attacks.
While many would have expected an interesting midfield battle between the likes of Musa Nyatama and Fortune Makaringe, it was on the flanks where things were happening for both teams.
Maritzburg were more functional on the left side where Mxolisi Kunene was instrumental, leaving Mthokozisi Dube at sixes and sevens.
Pirates' first real chance fellow to Lorch after pouncing on an unforgivable mistake by Maritzburg skipper Brian Onyango, only for Nazeer Allie to clear that effort off the line.
Making his debut for the home side, 19-year-old winger Bongokuhle Hlongwane had a game of his life.
The teenage sensation, who was an important player in the club's MultiChoice Diski Challenge (MDC) for the past two seasons, was a thorn in the flash of the Sea Robbers rearguard, thanks his agility and courage to take on defenders.
The second half wasn't as nail-biting as the first one, but the visitors never stopped to knock on the door. Their patient play was finally rewarded just seven minutes post the hour mark hour when Pule's poked from close range.
Pirates next play on May 4 away to tricky Cape Town City, who ended their title bid last year.
FS Stars 2, Baroka 2; Polokwane City 1, Bloem Celtic 2; Bidvest Wits 3, Black Leopards 1; AmaZulu 2, SuperSport 0
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