Pirates title boost as Sundowns stumble
Tukelo Rantie took advantage of a rare start for Orlando Pirates by scoring twice to help defeat Free State Stars 3-1 on Wednesday in the South African Premiership.
Striker Rantie opened and closed the scoring as the Buccaneers closed within two points of leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, who drew 0-0 at mid-table Bloemfontein Celtic.
On a disappointing night for top-eight clubs, only Pirates and AmaZulu won while Sundowns, Moroka Swallows, Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United drew and Free State and Ajax Cape Town lost.
With eight rounds left of the richest African football league, Sundowns have 42 points, Pirates 40, Swallows 38, Chiefs 37 with a game in hand, and SuperSport and Free State 35.
Success was particularly sweet for Pirates as they were bundled out of the South African FA Cup by Stars last Saturday at the same Soweto venue where they were on top for most of the league encounter.
Rantie scored in the opening minute, Edward Manqele levelled just after half-time to become the leading Premiership scorer with 11 goals, and Benni McCarthy converted a penalty on the hour mark.
The clinical finishing of Rantie was on display again at Orlando Stadium 12 minutes from time to seal the three points and keep Pirates in contention for back-to-back titles and another crack at the CAF Champions League crown.
After squandering several good scoring chances, Sundowns had a narrow escape in the final minute at Botshabelo Stadium when Celtic substitute Ruzaigh Gamildien was just off target with a header from a free kick.
Chiefs' lack of attacking punch once again cost them points as they drew 0-0 against Golden Arrows in Durban and SuperSport and Swallows also failed to score in a dour Pretoria showdown.
AmaZulu were the leading scorers on the night, winning 4-2 at Ajax Cape Town where Goodman Dlamini bagged a brace and Thamsanqa Sangweni and Joseph Lekata one each against former Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld.
A bad day for Cape Town clubs was completed when Santos slipped into the danger zone after a 2-1 loss at Black Leopards in Polokwane, where Rodney Ramagalela and Thomas Madimba scored within nine minutes for the victors.
Bottom club Jomo Cosmos won for only the second time this season with a Matthew Rusike goal on the hour mark earning a 1-0 victory at Bidvest Wits in Johannesburg.