Orlando Pirates forward Tshegofatso Mabaso struck in the final 10 minutes to hand his side a morale-boosting 1-0 win over Highlands Park in the Absa Premiership on Tuesday.
Pirates interim coach Rhulani Mokwena made five changes to his team that lost against Stellenbosch over the weekend, with Ben Motshwari, Justin Shonga and Mthokozisi Dube all brought back.
They, however, faced a fierce and competitive Highlands side who are a tough nut to crack at the Makhulong Stadium.
Both teams looked to feel their way into the game until Pirates came closest to opening the scoring in the 14th minute when a Mabasa cross found Vincent Pule at the back post, but the forward could not keep his header down.
Mabasa was then lucky to stay on the pitch moments later when he only received a yellow card for his two-footed lunge on Lindokuhle Mbatha, with replays suggesting the Pirates forward could easily have been sent off.
The home side then began to find their feet and had a couple of openings in quick succession, but Wayne Sandilands was on hand to deny Tendai Ndoro on both occasions.
The away side then almost took the lead just before the break as Pule was found unmarked in the box, but again he could not find the target.
The Sea Robbers came out looking to impose themselves in the second half and had a couple of early chances through, but again the Pirates forward line could not find the target.
Mokwena looked to change his tactics and system in order to try break down the defensive wall of Highlands. It eventually paid dividends with 10 minutes left as Mabasa was played through on goal before slotting past Highlands keeper Thela Ngobeni. Pirates, though, could consider themselves lucky as replays showed that the Bucs striker was well offiside when played through by Linda Mntambo.
Pirates would have taken it, though, as they managed to hold on to their lead and pick up a much-needed victory ahead of Saturday’s Telkom Knockout quarter-final against rivals Kaizer Chiefs.
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