Sekhukhune beat inconsistent Pirates to move to third spot on the log

30 March 2024 - 20:05
By Sazi Hadebe
Vusimuzi Mncube of Sekhukhune United and Olisa Ndah of Orlando Pirates in action during their DStv Premiership match at Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Image: Philip Maeta/Gallo Images Vusimuzi Mncube of Sekhukhune United and Olisa Ndah of Orlando Pirates in action during their DStv Premiership match at Peter Mokaba Stadium.

Sekhukhune United have joined an array of teams scrambling to finish in the top three in the DStv Premiership with their fifth straight win. 

A 2-1 success over Orlando Pirates at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday night lifted the Limpopo club from sixth to third spot on the log.

Vusi Mncube and former Pirates player Linda Mntambo scored for Sekhukhune in either half to take their club’s tally to 33 points in 20 matches.

For Pirates, the loss proves how inconsistent they’ve been in the league this season as they have dropped from second to fourth spot to be level on points with Sekhukhune with nine matches to go.   

Pirates still have a chance to fight for third or second spot behind runaway log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns who have no challengers as they gallop to a seventh straight league title.

Sekhukhune opened the scoring in the 32nd minute when Pirates allowed Mntambo to find Mncube inside the area to beat Sipho Chaine with a scrambled shot.   

This match started at slow pace though there were plenty of opportunities for Pirates to take the lead, but their attackers fluffed the chances before Mntambo and Mncube combined to give their side a 1-0 lead going into the break.   

Once again Pirates coach Jose Riveiro pulled a surprise in his starting XI, keeping only four players who started the last match.   

Riveiro left out the central pairing of skipper Thapelo Xoki and Nkosinathi Sibisi to start with Thabiso Sesane alongside Olisah Ndah in front of Chaine.

The decision might have come because of the duo returning late this week from Bafana Bafana duty in Algeria.

Riveiro’s decision to start with Sesane, a product of Pirates' development, backfired as the 23-year-old defender struggled with the tempo of the game and earned a yellow card a few minutes before Sekhukhune scored the opener.

It was amid that confusion in the Pirates defence that Mntambo found Mncube with a cheeky pass that caught Sesane, Ndah and Chaine in no-man’s land.

Sensing the danger, Riveiro pulled out Sesane for Sandile Mthethwa at the restart.

The decision seemed to stabilise Pirates at the back, and they came close to cancelling Mncube’s goal three minutes into the second stanza with Kabelo Dlamini’s free kick tipped over the bar by Badra Sangare.

But just as Pirates were pushing for the equaliser, Sekhukhune caught them on the counter and Elias Mokwana played a cross that was tapped in by Mntambo in the 51st minute.   

There was some hope for Pirates of avoiding a sixth defeat of the season when Deon Hotto crossed for Tshegofatsho Mabasa to halve the scoreline in the 55th minute.

After this goal Pirates created more chances but lack of composure by the likes of Mabasa, Relebogile Mofokeng and Kabelo Dlamini let them down.   

Should Sekhukhune, coached by former Pirates skipper Lehlohonolo Seema, keep up their impressive run they could finish second or third ahead of Pirates, Stellenbosch, SuperSport United, Cape Town City and Kaizer Chiefs.

A second spot would earn them a spot in the Caf Champions League alongside Sundowns while finishing third will see one these sides competing in the Caf Confederation Cup next season.