Pirates dethrone Royal at Harry Gwala to stay in race for second place

28 April 2024 - 18:29
By Neville Khoza
Thalente Mbatha celebrates scoring for Orlando Pirates in their DStv Premiership win against Royal AM at Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix Thalente Mbatha celebrates scoring for Orlando Pirates in their DStv Premiership win against Royal AM at Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.

Orlando Pirates continued their recent scoring exploits as they demolished Royal AM 4-0 to maintain their winning momentum in their DStv Premiership match at Harry Gwala Stadium on Sunday.

The victory was Pirates' fourth in succession across all competitions as they have finally managed to keep some consistency this season. The result kept the Buccaneers' hopes finishing second alive.

Pirates are in third place on 43 points from 25 matches, though face a stern test chasing red-hot, second-placed Stellenbosch FC, who thrashed Polokwane City 5-0 at Danie Craven Stadium on Saturday night.

Royal remain in danger of contesting the playoffs in 13th place, though with 29 points should avoid that fate in their remaining six matches. 

Like Stellenbosch, Pirates are in scoring form. In their three previous games they put seven past Lamontville Golden Arrows (7-1) in the league and four past AmaZulu (4-2) in the Nedbank Cup before a 1-0 league win against Usuthu. They enjoyed their afternoon in front of goal again against Royal in Pietermaritzburg.

Goals by Patrick Maswanganyi with a 29th-minute penalty, Thalente Mbatha (56th), Relebohile Mofokeng (74th) and Kabelo Dlamini (82nd) secured an emphatic victory.

Pirates were without the services of Sipho Chaine, Miguel Timm and Deon Hotto, who were all suspended, and in their place coach Jose Riveiro started with Melusi Buthelezi in goal, Innocent Maela at left-back and Mbatha in midfield.

The home side's approach was to press Pirates high and they were aggressive in the challenge without the ball. An early rough challenge by the KwaZulu-Natal team resulted in Pirates defender Thabiso Lebitso being substituted injured, replaced by Thabiso Monyane in the 17th.

The home side's aggressive approach also saw the visitors uncomfortable with the ball early in the game, where Pirates battled for rhythm.

The Buccaneers finally broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark with a controversial penalty, which was won and executed by Maswanganyi. Replays showed the foul took place outside the box.

Conceding the goal brought some energy to Thwihli Thwahla as they finished the half stronger and hit the crossbar via a powerful free-kick from the edge of the area by Sedwyn George.

Despite taking a 1-0 lead to the break, Pirates were not convincing and it was Royal who threatened more in the opening half.

The visitors came back with more energy in the second half and it was not long before Mbatha doubled Pirates' lead just before the hour mark against a run of play after he received a through-pass from Maswanganyi.

Relebohile Mofokeng made it 3-0 late in the second half with a cool finish after combining with big centre-forward Tshegofatso Mabasa before substitute Dlamini made it 4-0 with a cross-cum-strike that beat goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto.

Thwihli Thwahla were flat in the second half and lacked the energy they had shown in the opening 45 minutes, as the home team could not trouble Pirates keeper Buthelezi in the second half.