Orlando Pirates snatched a 1-0 win over Bloemfontein Celtic at the Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium to register their first Premiership victory of the season on Wednesday night, thanks to substitute Siphesihle Ndlovu’s smart finish.
Pirates came into the match walking on air after their 3-0 win over Kaizer Chiefs in the MTN8 semifinal first leg last Saturday.
But you could not tell that from their first half performance, which was bereft of chances and made for drab viewing.
Maybe it was because both teams had their eye firmly on the MTN8 competition and paid little mind to the Premiership match at hand, to the detriment of the spectacle.
Celtic coach John Maduka went as far as making nine changes to the team that drew 1-1 with SuperSport United last Sunday, and gave fullback Robert Smith his debut appearance.
Pirates’ story of the game were the potentially crippling injuries to Thembinkosi Lorch and Terrence Dzvukamanja.
Lorch limped off the park shortly after 10 minutes on the clock after sustaining a knee injury during an attempted tackle. The Bafana Bafana wing forward, who scored against Chiefs, was helped off the field in what looked like a concerning knock ahead of the return leg of that MTN8 semifinal on Sunday.
Namibian Deon Hotto stepped onto the park to replace him.
Before 10 minutes were up in the second half, midfielder Dzvukamanja was the next Buccaneer taken off through injury after a clash of heads with Celtic centre back Justice Chabalala.
Pirates’ offence took on a blunt approach, quite the opposite of what it was last weekend against their Soweto rivals, following Lorch’s departure.
Vincent Pule had Pirates’ first shot in anger after 22 minutes when the visitors strung a few neat passes together, which ended with an effort that went narrowly wide and onto the side-netting.
Celtic’s first response to a couple of Bucs chances came from Lesotho international striker, Motebang Sera, who had a free header from a corner in the 36th minute but he rushed the effort and poked the ball wide of Richard Ofori’s upright.
Midfielder Thato Lingwati had a great chance, fashioned from another corner, to put Celtic ahead near the Pirates goalmouth, when he latched onto a bobbling ball in the box.
But he couldn’t get a strong enough touch on the ball to trouble the Pirates defenders that cleared the danger swiftly. That was all she wrote after a rather drab first half.
Pirates captain Happy Jele opened the second half with a headed chance from a Hotto freekick that he glanced wide of goal.
As the match wore on, Celtic looked the more likely, even though they were playing a far more weakened side to Pirates, who only changed Jele for Thulani Hlatshwayo at centre back ahead of the game.
Celtic fullback Jerry Matjila squared an inviting ball to Sera in the 50th minute that was begging to be hit hard and low, but the centre forward hoofed it high and wide.
Roughly 10 minutes after losing Dzvukamanja, Pule rifled a snap shot on target that, although looked venomous, didn’t trouble Sipho Chaine much in the Celtic goal.
It took Ndlovu’s snatched, curling 78th minute goal from outside the box to break the stalemate and give Pirates their first win of the league campaign.
Pirates striker Zakhele Lepasa had a chance to add a cushion to the scoreline after being put through on goal by Pule but he skied his effort wide late on.
The defeat left Celtic without a win in three Premiership matches this season.