Last-gasp win for Bucs

2009-04-08 00:00

LUCAS Thwala’s last-minute headed winner kept Orlando Pirates’ Premier Soccer League title hopes alive in their 2-1 victory over Maritzburg United at a packed Woodburn Stadium last night.

United finished the game with 10 men after Fanyana Dhladhla was sent off for a second bookable offence for a studs-up challenge on Lucky Lekgwathi in the 78th minute.

A capacity 8 000 crowd got full value for their money in the Buccaneers’ first-ever PSL appearance in Pietermaritzburg, and were treated to a high quality, fast-paced display of end-to-end football.

The organisation around and within the stadium was superb and conduct of the fans excellent as arguably the highest profile match held in PMB went off without a hitch.

And in a charged up atmosphere, where every good touch or attacking move was roared on by a crowd roughly equally divided between the two teams, Bucs sneaked a victory that in the end was deserved. More importantly, it kept them within five points of leaders SuperSport United, who were 2-0 winners over Moroka Swallows in Pretoria.

“Of course, with four matches to go and only five points in it our title hopes are still very much alive,” said Bucs coach Ruud Krol. “We must keep winning every game and hope SuperSport slip somewhere.”

Pirates had to sweat for every inch of Woodburn turf gained last night against a determined United.

The home team were edged in midfield by a Buccaneers engine room led by the irrepressible Teko Modise and right-wing Dikgang Mabalane, and marshalled by Benson Mhlongo. But United still created the greater number of chances through their attacking flair and gusto.

“I thought we not only made it tough for Pirates, but played well ourselves and knocked the ball around,” said United coach Gordon Igesund. “We conceded two soft goals, but matched them in every department.”

United applied the early pressure with some enterprising build-ups.

In the 20th minute Sipho Mngomezulu’s shot from the edge of the area flew a foot over the bar after the ball had been superbly worked into space by the home team.

But it was Pirates who opened the scoring against the run of play a minute later as Modise’s corner was not held by United goalkeeper Michel Babale, and Thulasizwe Mbuyane was able to sneak the ball in off the right-hand upright.

United, though, continued to push for a goal and Mngomezulu’s shot was deflected well over after Fadlu Davids’s flick-on.

In the best chance of the half for the home team, Davids’s header from Dhladhla's cross forced a spectacular one-handed save from Bucs’ airborne ’keeper Moeneeb Josephs in the 31st minute.

As the half wore on frustration crept in for United as Elias Ngwepe and Dhladhla were booked for rash tackles.

The home side started brightly in the second half again and 14 minutes in, another Davids flick-on saw substitute Collen Zimba squeeze his shot wide. But Bucs started to edge control of midfield.

Mabalane steamed onto a lob by Mhlongo and his square-ball was desperately cleared by the United defence. Minutes later Modise twice turned Siphiwe Mkhonza on the left of the area before feeding Katlego Mashego, who shot inches wide.

Then Dhladhla, who seemed to be trying too hard, saw red for axing down Lekgwathi.

Despite being down to 10 men, United fought back into the game and when Mhlongo handled Davids’s shot, referee Daniel Bennett pointed to the spot. Captain Bageta Dikilu coolly slotted the equaliser.

Bucs looked peeved and with good reason, with their title chances slipping away. But the visitors surged forward to force a corner that was headed in by Thwala in the 90th minute.

Yesterday: Wits University 1 Bloemfontein Celtic 1, Maritzburg United 1 Orlando Pirates 2, Bay United 0 Kaizer Chiefs 2, Santos 1 Ajax Cape Town 2, SuperSport United 2 Moroka Swallows 0, Platinum Stars 0 Mamelodi Sundowns 0, Free State Stars 2 Thanda Royal Zulu 0, Lamontville Golden Arrows 0 AmaZulu 1

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