Deon Hotto scored a stoppage time winner as Orlando Pirates beat Stellenbosch FC in the first leg of their MTN8 semi-final at Athlone Stadium.
Deon Hotto broke the hearts of a valiant 10-man Stellenbosch FC with a stoppage-time winner for Orlando Pirates in a pulsating MTN8 first-leg semi-final at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town on Sunday afternoon.
Hotto flicked the ball past Sage Stephens into the Stellenbosch FC goal after rising to meet Patrick Maswanganyi’s chip into the box to complete Pirates’ comeback.
The Stellies players slumped to the ground in devastation for they had given it their all after being forced to play three quarters of this tough encounter without centre back Thabo Moloisane after the former Maritzburg United defender was shown a straight red card for a studs up tackle on Maswanganyi.
It was the second consecutive match Stellies have completed a match without their full complement of players after Devon Titus was sent off against Kaizer Chiefs during midweek.
But instead of folding under the immense pressure of a first-ever MTN8 semi-final infront a capacity crowd and against a rampant Pirates outfit, the home side dug deep into their reserves and showed tremendous character for the duration of the match.
They even took a surprise lead on the stroke of halftime through Moloisane’s central defensive partner Ismael Toure when the Ivorian headed home a Fawaaz Basadien corner.
Pirates are not one of the most in-form teams in the DStv Premiership for no reason though. The Buccaneers maintained their composure and kept moving the ball around at good pace that would eventually see the Stellies’ legs tire.
With Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker hauling off his most potent attacking threat Iqraam Rayers, who had a couple of chances in the first half, for Athenkosi Mcaba and fellow striker Andre de Jong for Genino Palace it was evident that Maroons were hoping to maintain their one-goal advantage.
But Pirates were not going to be denied, and especially not the red-hot Zakhele Lepasa. The former Stellies man lept high into the air to meet a delightful cross from Maswanganyi to head home the equaliser that sent the Pirates fans into raptures.
Barker had warned his charges ahead of the match of the danger that Lepasa posed, but they could do nothing to deny the striker his seventh goal of the season in all competitions.
From thereon Stellies were winding down the clock and seemed to have managed the near-impossible of holding for a draw leading into the second leg.
But with the clock heading deep into injury time, the Namibian Hotto popped just where coach Jose Riveiro needed him as the defending champions ensured they hold a major advantage ahead of Stellies’ visit to Soweto’s Orlando Stadium.