Orlando Pirates work hard to tough out a victory against Maritzburg
Orlando Pirates put together a more disciplined‚ effective performance to notch a second win from their last six matches‚ clinically — if unspectacularly — dispatching of Maritzburg United 1-0 in Saturday's DStv Premiership matchup.
Deon Hotto's 40th-minute strike separated the teams.
Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer had complained of injury havoc to his strikers resulting in him having to rush Gabadinho Mhango back with a niggle as a substitute in Wednesday's 0-0 home draw against Lamontville Golden Arrows.
Sure enough‚ the Malawian did not make Bucs' match 20 on Saturday‚ and Zinnbauer had Vincent Pule partnering Thembinkosi Lorch upfront. Zinnbauer gave a promising debut to fresh-faced 18-year-old youth product Azola Tshobeni in his midfield.
Zinnbauer‚ seeking answers to a run of two defeats‚ two draws and just one win‚ had Pirates‚ like United‚ laid out in a 3-5-2. Unlike the defence-minded hosts‚ wingbacks Hotto and Bongani Sam were deployed to press forward.
In the battle of wits of the former Bundelisga coaches‚ 14th-placed Maritzburg's emphasis was on accumulating points to move from the bottom and coach Ernst Middendorp had his XI set out in fortress formation.
A 3-5-2 where wingbacks Dan Morgan and Malebogo Modise were defensively deployed‚ outside centrebacks Rushine de Reuck‚ Clayton Daniels and Riyaaz Ismail‚ and with the added muscle of big normal defender Kwanda Mngonyama in midfield‚ possessed copious tough-tackling ability. Daniels had to limp off‚ to be replaced by Nazeer Allie‚ in just the 21st minute.
Middendorp's castle seemed able to withstand the inevitable siege‚ as a Pirates who had lacked confidence in a mini-slump had not just themselves but also the late afternoon heat in the bowl that surrounds Pietermaritzburg to overcome penetrating it.
But Bucs were patient and awaited their chance. It came minutes before the break. Thabang Monare won the ball deep and played the lively Sam into space on his flank‚ who crossed to find Hotto free to tap in at the far post.
A goal down‚ United had to switch to greater attack in the second half‚ and Middendorp brought on Daylon Claasen‚ Bongokuhle Hlongwane and Thabiso Kutumela for Jose Ali Meza‚ Ismail and Judas Moseamedi from the break.
Maritzburg attempted to up the tempo‚ but Bucs' game management was more efficient than recent disappointing performances‚ and they earned a deserved three points.