DURBAN – Substitute Siphesihle Ndlovu’s 78th minute stunner was the difference as Orlando Pirates recorded their first victory of the DSTV Premiership campaign by beating Bloemfontein Celtic 1-0 at the Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium in Mangaung on Wednesday night.
Paseko Mako confused the Celtic defence before playing in Ndlovu whose shot gave Celtic goalkeeper Sipho Chaine no chance.
Though Celtic’s Siphelele Luthuli and Ryan De Jongh appeared to be defensively aware for most of the game, a lapse in concentration between the two allowed Mako and Ndlovu their space to create the goal.
There was little margin of error for both sides in the game. Both sides played a cautious brand of football, seemingly with one eye on their respective MTN 8 semi-final second leg clashes this weekend.
Speaking after the game, Pirates interim coach Fadlu Davids said that the first half was fairly slow. He said that his second half substitutes injected energy into his side which ultimately led to their winning goal.
“In the first half we were slow in our passing. It was due to fatigue following the MTN 8 semi-final first leg clash against Kaizer Chiefs. The substitutes came on and made a difference. The game was not about pretty football. Once we made our changes, we started to take control of the game and deserved the victory,” said Davids.
Despite the three points, Pirates were dealt two potential injury blows in the game. Thembinkosi Lorch fell to the ground in the 11th minute after picking up a knee injury and was unable to continue playing. He was replaced by Deon Hotto three minutes later.
Pirates second injury scare happened early on in the second half as midfielder Terrence Dzvukamanja had to be taken off the field with a stretcher before being replaced by Ndlovu in the 58th minute.
Even though they were subdued for the majority of the game, Celtic did come to life in the 80th minute and produced some good attacking interplay.
Pirates new goalkeeper Richard Ofori was required to make three impressive saves late on in the game which helped to preserve the win for his side. The first was in the 84th minute as he calmly saved an headed effort from Harris Tchilimbou.
Ofori was again alert three minutes later as he kept out a testing effort from attacking midfielder Tumelo Mangweni. The Ghanian’s also imposed himself well in the 90th minute to successfully deal with a tricky cross from Siphelele Luthuli.
Though his side have yet to win a game in the Premiership so far this season, Celtic coach John Maduka does not see any reason to panic.
“We played well. The boys worked very hard. We did drop in the second half which allowed them to score but we will win matches and are not panicking,” he added after the game.
Maduka’s Celtic side faces a tricky MTN 8 semi-final second leg at the Seisa Ramabodu Stadium on Saturday with both team’s square 1-1 on aggregate.
Pirates will be up against Kaizer Chiefs at the FNB Stadium, carrying a 3-0 first leg advantage.