Mhango strike raises Bucs' CAF hopes

Relief for beleaguered JZ as Usuthu fall

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Butholezwe Ncube of AmaZulu challenges Gabadinho Mhango of Orlando Pirates during the DStv Premiership 2020/21 match between Orlando Pirates and AmaZulu on the 27 May 2021 at Orlando Stadium
Butholezwe Ncube of AmaZulu challenges Gabadinho Mhango of Orlando Pirates during the DStv Premiership 2020/21 match between Orlando Pirates and AmaZulu on the 27 May 2021 at Orlando Stadium
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Gabadinho Mhango tucked in a brilliant free-kick that was initially a bone of contention between him and second half substitute Kabelo Dlamini to give the Buccaneers a 1-0 win over AmaZulu at Orlando Stadium yesterday.

The win didn’t just afford beleaguered Pirates trainer Josef Zinnbauer breathing space amid calls for him to be fired, it also boosted the side’s ambitions to topple AmaZulu from the second spot in their bid to participate in next season’s CAF Champions League.

Zinnbauer started the match with a recognised striker in Mhango, who netted the eventual winner in the 76th minute. The German had been criticised heavily for benching natural strikers in favour of playing winger Deon Hotto as a false No 9.

Siyabonga Mpontshane unexpectedly got the nod ahead of Wayne Sandilands in goal. With both Happy Jele and Thulani Hlatshwayo nowhere to be seen in the match day squad, Innocent Maela partnered with the skipper of the day, Ntsikelelo Nyauza, in central defence.

Conversely, Usuthu’s Benni McCarthy didn’t make any surprise changes to his first XI, with veteran Lehlohonolo Majoro spearheading the attack alongside support striker Augustine Mulenga.

The visitors’ game plan was dealt a blow when their midfield strongman Makhehleni Makhaula was forced off after pulling his groin unchallenged in the sixth minute. Butholezwe Ncube replaced Makhaula, who has also been nominated for the midfielder of the season accolade.

The Sea Robbers were more purposeful in their attack than Usuthu, who played in patches, in the first stanza. Nkanyiso Zungu and Ben Motshwari did a sterling job in the middle of the park to link up with attackers Thembinkosi Lorch and Mhango.

Despite their dominance, Pirates lacked a cutting edge in the final third. Mhango got some good opportunities but he couldn’t compose himself until he scored from the free-kick, thanks to Usuthu defenders Tapelo Xoki and Mbongeni Gumede who both stuck to him like glue whenever the ball was at his feet.

Pirates introduced Vincent Pule for Lorch at half time. The introduction of “Mashonisa" brought a sense of urgency to Bucs' play. Pule combined well with the likes of Mhango and Zungu to launch attacks.

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