Orlando Pirates got back to winning ways on Saturday afternoon courtesy of a Deon Hotto strike in the first half, handing the Soweto giants a 1-0 win over Maritzburg United.
The Sea Robbers came into the game looking to bounce back from their shock mid-week defeat by Black Leopards. Coach Josef Zinnbauer made three changes, with Innocent Maela and Deon Hotto brought back into the lineup while youngster Azola Tshobeni was handed a debut.
Maritzburg, who have improved under former Kaizer Chiefs boss Ernst Middendorp, were looking for another big scalp after beating Pirates’ Soweto rivals a couple of weeks ago and were boosted by the return of Rushine De Reuck, Kwandakwensizwa Mngonyama and Daniel Morgan.
Pirates started the game with a lot of intention as they dominated the ball while throwing bodies forward in hope of an early goal to end their goalless run after failing to score in their last two games.
The Buccaneers, though, were struggling to create clear-cut chances but tested Maritzburg goalkeeper Bongani Mpandle with some long-range shots.
Bongani Sam was impressive yet again down the left flank and in the 33rd minute he looked to be clear on goal, but his effort was well blocked by the recovering defence.
Pirates eventually managed to break the deadlock five minutes before the interval, when Thabang Monare sent through a sumptuous ball down the left flank finding the marauding Sam whose first-time cross was volleyed home at the back post by Deon Hotto.
The scoreline was 1-0 to Pirates at the break, with Maritzburg now having to change their gameplan to play higher up the field.
It was a tight start to the second half as both sides searched for supremacy, but were only proving to cancel each other out with clear-cut chances proving hard to come by.
Pirates, as time ticked over, looked happy to sit back, remain patient and compact – asking Maritzburg to break them down while still posing a threat on the counter.
Zinnbauer’s men looked to wrap the game up with eight minutes to play but Thembinkhosi Lorch failed to keep his effort down after a sweeping counter-attack.
The Team of Choice threw everything forward in the closing stages, but Pirates stood firm to snap their two-game winless streak and move into the top four for now.
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