Pirates back to top, Tshabalala hits brace

Tlou Segolela inspired Orlando Pirates to reclaim top place in the South African Premiership today with a 2-0 victory at mid-table Free State Stars.

The 22-year-old attacking midfielder scored a superb solo goal after 17 minutes and his cross set up the second from Andile Jali close to full time.

After a roller-coaster eight days in which the lead of the richest national football championship on the continent has changed four times, the Buccaneers are sure of staying top for the rest of the weekend.

Pirates have 35 points after 17 rounds, Kaizer Chiefs and Ajax Cape Town 33 each and Mamelodi Sundowns, who host Platinum Stars in Pretoria tomorrow, 31 as a thrilling race for the $1.3million first prize unfolds.

Free State, who entered the match having drawn half their 16 outings, fell behind when Segolela took the ball from his own half to the edge of Stars penalty area before stroking it past Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene. He was unlucky not to double Pirates' lead close to half-time when a shot from outside the box bounced over off the crossbar.

A swift attack five minutes from full time exposed a porous Stars central defence and put the match beyond their reach as Segolela crossed for Jali to sidefoot the ball into the net from point-blank range.

FIFA World Cup™ midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala showed why he is being linked with English second-tier club Nottingham Forest by scoring a brace as Chiefs triumphed 3-1 against lowly Maritzburg United at Soccer City in Soweto.

Tshabalala opened the scoring on nine minutes after a superb pass from leading league scorer Knowledge Musona set him free to round goalkeeper Shuaib Walters and an unstoppable late second-half drive sealed maximum points.

Burundi defender Valery Nahayo had headed Chiefs into a two-goal lead off a Tshabalala corner before Fadlu Davids temporarily raised Maritzburg hopes by chesting the ball in when Itumeleng Khune failed to clutch a corner.

Bloemfontein Celtic came from behind to hold AmaZulu 1-1 at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Indian Ocean city Durban with Ntokozo Sikhakhane putting the home team ahead on 27 minutes and Nathan Paulse levelling in the second half.

Unlucky to only draw recent home games against Sundowns and Chiefs, Celtic stay sixth on the table, eight points behind Pirates, while AmaZulu are in the bottom half but eight points clear of the danger zone.