Orlando Pirates took a significant step toward a first South African Premiership title since 2003 when they weathered a late Mamelodi Sundowns onslaught for a 2-1 victory in Soweto today. Success tasted particularly sweet for the 'Buccaneers' as it was the first national championship double over the 'Brazilians' in 22 years and the timing could not have been better.
Sundowns entered the game at Orlando Stadium three points adrift of Pirates and a win would have taken them back to the top on goal difference in the hunt for a $1.3m first prize. Instead, Pirates climbed to 44 points while Sundowns remained third on 38 two thirds of the way through the season.
Ajax Cape Town - 4-3 winners over Santos in a thriller 24 hours earlier - lie second on 40 points and although Kaizer Chiefs trail Pirates by eight points they have two games in hand and one is at Platinum Stars tomorrow.
Katlego Mphela converted a 13th-minute penalty and Thulasizwe Mbuyane added a second Pirates goal in the last minute of the opening half with an angled looping header over goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands. Substitute Mabhuti Khenyeza set up a thrilling finish by heading home 11 minutes from full-time, but Pirates hung on despite having jet-propelled wide midfielder Tlou Segolela dismissed for time wasting.
Sundowns caretaker coach Ian Gorowa, who replaced Antonio Lopez last week after the Spaniard quit over death threats, insisted the title race was far from over. "It is still a four-club race between Pirates, Ajax, Chiefs and ourselves. I felt we were better than Pirates tonight except when it come to finishing" the Zimbabwean said.
Former South Africa FIFA World Cup™ striker Siyabonga Nomvete scored from an early penalty to give relegation-threatened Moroka Swallows a precious 1-0 home win over Maritzburg United, the club immediately above them.