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Orlando Pirates put three past Polokwane, but are runners-up

Thembinkosi Lorch of Orlando Pirates scored twice to boost his chances of winning Player of the Season award.
Thembinkosi Lorch of Orlando Pirates scored twice to boost his chances of winning Player of the Season award.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates could not win the 2018-19 Absa Premiership, but they pushed Mamelodi Sundonws for it all the way and entertained every step of that path, as was the case in their 3-0 win against Polokwane City at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.

That might be scant consolation for their supporters, hungry for a first trophy since the 2014 Nedbank Cup.

Thembinkosi Lorch in the seventh minute, Vincent Pule in the 21st, then Lorch again in the 42nd gave Bucs a 3-0 lead by the break, and that was where the score remained.

The size of the crowd in Orlando reflected the odds being against the Buccaneers to win the league. There was a decent turnout, but the famous ground was far from packed to the rafters.

The Ghost had not turned out in maximum numbers to view Pirates lifting a championship trophy for the first time since their second successive treble 2011-12.

Pirates ended runners-up to Sundowns for a second season.

Last year it was by five points.

This time they closed the gap to two points - Pirates 57, Sundowns 59 - barring a court-room decision that might see Downs deducted a now-insignificant point.

Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic made one change from the 2-2 draw away against Cape Town City last Saturday that handed the advantage on the final day to Sundowns, Augustine Mulenga coming in at centre-forward for Justin Shonga.

Polokwane coach Jozef Vukusic surprised by not having three regulars - centreback Ayanda Nkili, midfielder Walter Musona and goalkeeper George Chigova - on his team sheet.

Vukusic - the well-travelled 54-year-old former top-level player in Slovakia who has coached in destinations such as his home country, Libya and Kazakhstan - has had an impressive first season in the PSL.

An experienced combination who regularly punch above their weight, City have been a model of consistency to deserve a more-than creditable fifth place.

But Pirates, having slipped up in Cape Town, were in uncompromising mood, coming out intent on making City walk the plank.

Bucs were in goal-scoring frame. With Sundowns beating Free State Stars 1-0 in Bethlehem though, it could have been 20-0 and, in terms of the title, it would not have mattered.

Pirates had an early let-off from City's big, dangerous Mohammed Anas. From Mbulelo Wagaba's chip over, the mobile Ghanaian centre-forward got the touch past Wayne Sandilands, but inches wide of the right upright.

In response, Pirates engaged top gear, soon carving out a 2-0 lead by just after 20 minutes, then 3-0 by the break.

City were not overly poor. This was an instance where the attacking team mostly just were too hard to stop in their mobility and pace of movement.

Lorch was all over City. Mulenga took a chip on his chest, turned and put Lorch through to beat offside and slot past goalkeeper Lehlohonolo Phali.

In a training ground move, a corner was taken low to Pule outside the area, who was quickly closed down.

The ball was worked back to Pule, who turned and struck a beautiful, scorching 25-metre drive in at the top-left corner.

Bucs were running rampant. Lorch touched Mulenga through, who could not chip Phali. On a counterattack Pule put Lorch clear to shoot at Phali. A Mulenga header was excellently kept out by the keeper.

Close to the break, Mulenga's chip saw Lorch alone on goal again who slipped a finish to make the game safe.

Of course, it was a more circumspect, cautiously-probing Pirates who came out from the break.

From Monde Mphambaniso's low drive, looping off a Bucs foot, Polokwane substitute Bongile Booi headed onto the crossbar. Bucs then managed the game to a conclusion.

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