Orlando Pirates made to sweat for Nedbank Cup win by tricky Uthongathi

06 February 2021 - 17:01 By Marc Strydom
Orlando Pirates beat Uthongathi FC 1-0 at Orlando Stadium in the Nedbank Cup last-32.
Orlando Pirates beat Uthongathi FC 1-0 at Orlando Stadium in the Nedbank Cup last-32.

Orlando Pirates laboured but ultimately produced what was necessary to progress past defensive Uthongathi FC 1-0 at Orlando Stadium in the Nedbank Cup last-32.

On a wet, but seemingly not overly-slippery surface, Gabadinho Mhango’s 63rd-minute strike earned MTN8 champions Bucs a place in the last-16 of the Covid-19-affected season’s only other cup.

Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer had made seemingly too many changes — four — from a winning combination in the Soweto derby against Kaizer Chiefs to Saturday’s 2-0 defeat away to Golden Arrows, both in the league.

With an entirely different match situation in the cup against GladAfrica Championship campaigners, coming off a defeat, four more changes were perhaps more understandable. Bucs’ lack of continuity, though, and many switches of systems — Saturday was a 4-3-3 — do seem to be confusing the players.

Zinnbauer utilised the opportunity to give a debut to 20-year-old Thabiso Sesane at right-back, as Thulani Hlatshwayo, Ben Motshwari and Gabadinho Mhango returned; and Ntsikelelo Nyauza, Paseko Mako, Fortune Makaringe and Azola Tshobeni made way.

Pitso Dladla’s Uthongathi came into the game on a solid start in the NFD of four wins, five draws and two defeats to be in sixth place.

Such matchups can be tricky. The bigger team need to take the scruff of the proceedings against upstarts who will interpret a hint of weakness as an opportunity to make a name for themselves.

Bucs meandered despite unsurprisingly easily enjoying territorial advantage in the first half. Uthongathi’s containing game was neat enough, but Pirates’ lack of dynamic movement at pace also did not overly stretch it.

Bucs’ best opportunity of the opening half came when their most energetic players, Siphesihle Ndlovu and Motshwari, combined for the latter shoot just off target from the right edge of the area in the 25th. Two minutes later Ndlovu struck into the arms of goalkeeper Xolani Ngcobo.

Pirates’ body language was to lift the tempo from the restart. Against NFD opponents growing in confidence the longer they did not concede, though, it takes a little more than looking like you want to try harder.

Bucs were playing with fire and just after the hour Nkosiyazi Maphumulo’s sublime turn on the left to evade Sesane and Happy Jele’s twin challenge saw the playmaker burst down the left and feed the run of Khetukuthula Ndlovu, who shaped a shot wide.

It was a fine opportunity to Uthongathi, but when the KwaZulu-Natal side could not take it, Bucs seemed likely to accept the lifeline. They did when Thabang Monare’s chip upfield found Deon Hotto on the left to chest, turn, and feed the diagonal pass to Mhango in front of his marker who produced a simple first-time tap-in.

With a 1-0 lead, Zinnbauer altered the make-up of particularly his attack. Siyabonga Mpontshane came on for limping Richard Ofori in goal. Terence Dzvukamanja, Jean-Marc Mundele and Kabelo Dlamini replaced Thembinkosi Lorch, Hotto and Mhango.

Bucs finished strong and Monare's spectacular drive swerved onto the upright in added time.