JOHANNESBURG, April 5 – Orlando Pirates had to pull out all the stops to keep their title challenge alive, as they saw off 10-man Bloemfontein Celtic 2-1 in an Absa Premiership match played at the Orlando Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Going into the match in second spot on the log just one point behind log-leaders Mamelodi Sundowns but having played one match more, Pirates were on a high in having won four league games in a row.
They found the back of the Celtic goal-net as early as the 17th minute when Musa Nyatama managed to slant home a header past Phunya Sele Sele No 1, Cameroonian Patrick Tignyemb.
Pirates’ Achilles Heel in the form of the ability to defend against set-pieces, once again came back to haunt them.
It took just one minute of play in the second half before Celtic defender Lorenzo Gordinho took advantage of some hesitant defending from a corner-kick to place the ball past the Buccaneers goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane.
However, the Celtic dream turned into a nightmare in the 79th minute, when Gordinho was sent from the field after unfairly bringing down Pirates substitute Thamsanqa Mabuza who had a clear run at goal.
Worse was to follow for the visitors when Pirates went ahead after another substitute, Augustine Mulenga fired the ball into the top of the Celtic goal-net in the 78th minute, with the Zambian only having been on the field for three minutes.
Both sides had a host of chances to score two or more goals in the first half.
The black-and-white-clad Soweto giants nearly doubled their lead in the 25th minute, but goalkeeper Tignyemb pulled off a superb save to keep out a dangerous shot at goal from Thembinkosi Lorch.
Celtic had a few good chances to level the scoreline or even take the lead, with Deon Hotto terrorising the Pirates defence on the left flank, while Ndumiso Mabena’s constant raids caused many anxious moments for the hosts.
Pirates moved to 45 points from 25 games and will begin preparations for their next league outing, away to struggling Supersport United next Wednesday.
Celtic, who lost 2-1 in the Nedbank Cup quarterfinals to Maritzburg United at the weekend, remain on 32 points from 25 games and will continue their quest to finish among the top eight clubs, when they host Amazulu on April 11.