A late winner from Gabadinho Mhango handed Orlando Pirates a tight 1-0 win over Maritzburg United in the Absa Premiership on Wednesday evening as the Soweto giants’ hopes of a top-three finish remained alive.
Pirates came into the game buzzing off their dramatic 2-1 win over SuperSport United ,which broke their winless streak since the restart. With the result the Soweto giants reignited their hope in finishing in the final Caf spot in third, but they would need to follow it up with all three points against top eight chasing Maritzburg.
The Team of Choice, however, have also struggled to pick up wins since the restart drawing three and losing one of their games in the bubble.
Josef Zinnbauer decided to hand Zakehle Lepasa a start in the Pirates lineup following his match-winning goal against SuperSport, while Siphesihle Ndlovu earned a rare start against his former side, Maritzburg.
The Buccaneers started the game on the front foot as they looked to control the pace and tempo of the encounter through possession of the ball, while Maritzburg were looking to keep their discipline and hit on the counter.
Both sides, though, have struggled since the restart and that was clear in the opening stanza as both teams battled to find the killer pass.
Pirates almost snatched the lead just before the break but Thembinkosi Lorch saw his powerful strike turned away by Maritzburg shotstopper Richard Ofori before Vincent Pule’s effort crashed against the crossbar.
It was more of the same in the second half as both teams struggled to create any clear-cut chances from open play in a game looking destined to end goalless.
Both Eric Tinkler and Zinnbauer eventually turned to their benches in search of some inspiration.
Then, just as the game looked to be drifting into a 0-0 draw, Pirates substitute Gabadinho Mhango got a sniff at goal. He made no mistake, smashing it past Ofori in the 89th minute to seal all three points for the Sea Robbers, who can now still finish in third.
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