By Michael Madyira
Tapelo Xoki’s second-half penalty helped Orlando Pirates cut the gap between them and SuperSport United to two points following a 1-0 victory at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.
The Buccaneers collected maximum points in unconvincing fashion through Xoki who converted from the spot with 11 minutes remaining.
It was a match of few clear-cut chances but Pirates grind a result as they remain third on the Premier Soccer League table.
SuperSport are still number two but return to Tshwane unhappy after allowing the Soweto giants close in on them.
It was a slight twist to the race for a top-two finish that comes with qualification for next season’s Caf Champions League.
The Buccaneers welcomed back captain Innocent Maela while Matsatsantsa had Bradley Grobler returning from suspension as well.
Both sides never really threatened each other that much, especially in the first half with half-chances being the main story.
Blocks by Paseka Mako for Pirates as well as Thulani Hlatshwayo for the visitors were the major highlights of the opening 20 minutes.
Patrick Maswanganyi then came close for SuperSport but met an alert Pirates goalkeeper Sipho Chaine covering the top corner where the Matsatsantsa star was aiming.
It was the conclusion of a first half that failed to get fans on the edge of their seats.
With 20 minutes to go, Maswanganyi was released and smartly beat Paseka Mako but had Chaine deny his effort with his legs.
On 76 minutes, substitute Evidence Makgopa forced SuperSport goalkeeper Ricardo Goss to save his attempt in a face-to-face situation.
Then just after that, Pirates were awarded a penalty after Monnapule Saleng was brought down inside the box.
Up-stepped Xoki to send Goss the wrong way and separate the two sides in what was his first-ever goal for Pirates.
Makgopa tried to combine with fellow substitute Fortune Makaringe but found Goss unyielding as the duo appeared bent on trying to convince coach Jose Riveiro they need regular minutes.
Not much threat faced Pirates in the dying moments of the game and they bagged three points without sweating much.
Pictured above: Orlando Pirates’ Kabelo Dlamini take on SuperSport’s Grant Margeman
Image source: Orlando Pirates