MHANGO MAKES SURE PIRATES END 2019 ON A HIGH

Orlando Pirates ended 2019 on a high as they claimed a 3-1 win over Black Leopards in an Absa Premiership clash at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday afternoon.

In what was new coach Josef Zinnbauer’s first match in charge, the Buccaneers triumphed thanks to goals from Innocent Maela and Frank Mhango (two), and moved up to fifth place on the log. Lidoda Duvha, meanwhile, remain in 10th spot.

The first chance of the match went the way of Leopards’ Lesedi Kapinga, who twisted and turned on the edge of the box before producing a shot which required a finger-tip save from Pirates goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands in the fifth minute.

The hosts bossed possession, but Leopards appeared quite happy to sit back and absorb the pressure, all the while looking to hit Pirates on the counter attack through the pace of players such as Kapinga, Thuso Phala and Mwape Musonda.

The Buccaneers soon began to turn up the pressure and they were rewarded with a goal midway through the first half: a poor clearance fell kindly for Innocent Maela, whose low shot on target deflected off Chris Katjiukua to evade goalkeeper Jonas Mendes and put the Soweto side in control.

Bucs created several more scoring chances, but their finishing was wayward and uninspiring. The home side was very nearly pegged back in the 35th minute when Kapinga again let fly, but his time his shot was just over the crossbar.

Leopards needed Mendes to make an excellent save in the 39th minute, punching away a devilish shot from Vincent Pule which looked destined for the back of the net. That proved to be the last clear chance of the half, with Pirates enjoying a 1-0 lead at the break.

Leopards upped their passing game in the second half and claimed a deserved equaliser on the hour mark, with Kapinga setting up Musonda, who calmly stroked home a left-footed shot but immediately signalled for a substitution with what appeared to be a hamstring strain.

Bucs responded immediately to Leopards’ equaliser and took full advantage of the hosts being down to 10 men (with Musonda receiving treatment off the pitch), as Mhango fired home a low shot from a tight angle after great set-up play by Pule and Luvoyo Memela.

Musonda remained on the field in a major gamble by Lidoda Duvha, who used their last two subs when they knew the striker had an issue, while Pirates were rewarded a debatable penalty with just under 20 minutes to play when Mhango tumbled under a challenge for Mendes. The Malawian striker took the spot kick himself and made it 3-1 in the 73rd minute.

That effectively ended the game as a contest, with Pirates able to see out the remainder of the time with relative ease and claim all three points. The teams will return to Absa Premiership action on the first weekend of 2020, with Bucs away to Bloemfontein Celtic on January 4 and Leopards away to Highlands Park the following day.

Orlando Pirates (1) 3 (Maela 22’, Mhango 63’ 73’ pen)

Black Leopards (0) 1 (Musonda 60’)

Pirates: Sandilands, Jele, Nyauza, Maela, Mabaso, Motshwari, Mntambo, Pule (Nyatama 80’), Mhango, Mulenga (Mako 74’), Dlamini (Memela 51’)

Leopards: Mendes, Matlaba, Katjiukua, Gyimah, Zulu, Phala (Mhlongo 65’), Ng’ambi (Andrianarimanana 71’), Mokoena, Ndlovu (Mudau 55’), Kapinga, Musonda