Orlando Pirates showed a lot of improvement in the second half of their Nedbank Cup clash against Maritzburg United as they scored three goals to advance to the quarter-finals.
JOHANNESBURG – Orlando Pirates kept their chances of winning a second domestic trophy alive when they beat Maritzburg United 3-1 at a cool Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday night to progress to the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup.
Fresh from a disappointing outing midweek, after drawing 1-all with SuperSport United, Pirates were looking to bounce back to winning ways in the cup competition, where they’ve had good fortunes after already winning the MTN8 late last year.
Coach Josef Zinnbauer made a single change to the team that drew with SuperSport, Linda Mntambo replacing Thembinkosi Lorch. The latter was the latest addition in a striking department that has been troubled by injuries since the start of the season.
But despite their woes upfront, Pirates were expected to continue with the potency that has seen them qualify for the group stage of the Caf Confederation Cup with ease after scoring five goals in three matches in the preliminary qualifiers.
However, it was the home side that attacked with purpose from the outset. Sibusiso Hlubi was released on the edge of the box before unleashing a hard and low shot against goalkeeper Richard Ofori, who called Maritzburg home last season.
Luckily for Ofori, Happy Jele cleared the rebound for a corner-kick ahead of Brian Hlongwane who was lurking, hoping to poke home the loose ball. But, soon thereafter, the Ghanaian goalkeeper would have an embarrassing moment in his second homecoming
After a weighted ball from the flank, Ofori and Thulani Hlatshwayo contemplated on who should clear the lines. But the former finally stepped out of his box, dribbled past his first marker before Hlongwane, the second opponent, obstructed him in his tracks.
So much that the loose ball fell to Thabiso Kutumela who calmly picked up his spot and passed the ball into an empty. It may not have been the start the Bucs wanted but they continued to pile on the pressure as Deon Hotto forced goalkeeper Marcel Engelhardt to a high-flying save.
Despite Pirates continuing to dominate the lion’s share of possession but they were still trailing at half-time. In fact, that deficit could have been bigger hadn’t Ofori tipped Hlongwane’s header over the crossbar after a delightful cross from Hlubi.
But to Pirates’ credit, they turned the game on its head in a minute. Second half substitute Kabelo Dlamini found his team’s equaliser with a sumptuous finish outside of the box after being set-up by Hotto who had his back against goal.
And in a blink of an eye, Pirates were ahead. Mntambo, who was on the edge of the box, received a defence splitting pass before picking out Hotto who was on the face of goal. The Namibian easily guided the ball into an empty net with a sliding interception.
The Team of Choice were not going down without a fight, it appeared. Ali Meza tested Ofori with a dipping shot from long-range. But the latter tipped the effort over the crossbar. Vincent Pule, though, put the final nail in the coffin, slotting home from close-range to send Pirates to the last eight.