Orlando Pirates ended a run of three Absa Premiership matches without a win by defeating Ajax Cape Town 2-1 at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday night.
The result – secured thanks to an unfortunate own goal from Rivaldo Coetzee and a strike from Sifiso Myeni – sees the Buccaneers (20 points from 16 matches) leapfrog the Urban Warriors (19 points from 16 matches) on the PSL table. Prince Nxumalo scored the away side’s goal in the second half as they threatened a comeback.
Ajax had a nightmare start to the game, first losing key striker Nathan Paulse to what looked like a broken right wrist after an awkward fall, before Rivaldo Coetzee’s back-pass to Anssi Jaakkola slipped under the goalkeeper’s foot and went over the line for a comical own goal in the 20th minute.
Shortly thereafter Bucs almost doubled their advantage, with Thabo Rakhale touching Thabo Matlaba’s cross just wide of the target, and the hosts then also suffered an injury blow as Thabo Qalinge was withdrawn due to a knock to his hip and replaced by Mpho Makola.
The Pirates substitute had a great chance to score in the 40th minute, but he fluffed his attempted shot when faced with only Jaakkola to beat and then slipped to the floor in a half-hearted attempt to win a penalty which was rightly ignored by the referee.
On 44 minutes Jaakkola made up for his earlier error with a superb double save. He first did well to shift his weight and block a deflected shot from Thandani Ntshumayelo, before brilliantly and bravely denying Ntsikelelo Nyauza from the resulting loose ball.
Pirates finally got the second goal they had been threatening when Sifiso Myeni scored early in second half. The goal was all down to the brilliance of Thamsanqa Gabuza, who charged down a clearance and beat a defender down the left before unselfishly teeing up his teammate to score.
Ajax made a double change after the hour mark – which included the long-awaited return of Tashriq Morris from injury – and the uplift in their tempo paid almost immediate dividends. On 65 minutes Edwin Gyimah was guilty of a poor piece of defending in his own penalty area and Prince Nxumalo took full advantage by winning the ball and beating Brighton Mhlongo with a cool finish to make it 2-1.
The Cape side dominated the last quarter of the match and almost claimed an 88th minute equaliser when Nxumalo got on the end of a corner kick and powered a header against the crossbar, leaving Pirates to hang on for a nervy victory.