Pirates stretch lead, Sundowns held
Orlando Pirates increased their lead at the top of the South African Premiership table to two points today despite being held 0-0 at home by struggling Bidvest Wits. The Buccaneers disappointing performance at Orlando Stadium came a couple of hours after long-time pacesetters Mamelodi Sundowns suffered a second straight loss when going down 1-0 at bottom-half Maritzburg United.
It was the second goalless league draw within four days for title holders Pirates and the second defeat in the same period for record five-time champions Sundowns. SuperSport United, who won three titles in a row before surrendering the crown to Pirates last season, gained most from the front runners' slip-ups as they climbed to third place with a 2-1 home win over Ajax Cape Town.
Moroka Swallows, Free State Stars and Kaizer Chiefs are also in contention with four rounds left after this weekend. Former African champions Pirates have 48 points, Sundowns 46, SuperSport 45, Swallows 43, Free State 42 and Chiefs 40 with Swallows having one game in hand and Chiefs two games.
With 11 points from their last five matches, Pirates were hot favourites to overcame a Wits side that has taken just one point from the same number of games, but the thrilling title chase took another unexpected turn. Backed by impressive Zimbabwean goalkeeper Energy Murambadoro, Wits defence stood firm with Ugandan Timothy Batabaire shackling former Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United striker Benni McCarthy.
Maritzburg followed up a shock midweek triumph over Chiefs by defeating Sundowns 1-0 in Indian Ocean city Port Elizabeth with Zimbabwean striker Cuthbert Malajila once more the match-winner. He broke Chiefs' hearts with a late winner and left it even later against Mamelodi, getting behind the defence and beating goalkeeper Calvin Marlin at his near post nine minutes from time at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
SuperSport came from behind to edge Ajax 2-1 in northern city Polokwane with Malawian substitute Atusaye Nyondo grabbing the 84th-minute winner and Rowen Fernandez denying Matthew Booth a late equaliser through an acrobatic save.
Jomo Cosmos remain bottom of the table after conceding two late goals to lose 3-1 at Lamontville Golden Arrows in Durban while Togolese Dove Wome scored the only goal as Free State won 1-0 away to Platinum Stars in Rustenburg.