BENNI McCarthy came off the bench and scored a contender for goal of the season as Orlando Pirates defeated Maritzburg United 1-0 to move to within three points of the top of the Absa Premiership on Sunday.
The match at Orlando Stadium looked destined to end in stalemate, but United were reduced to ten men just past the hour mark when defender Peter Petersen picked up his second yellow card. McCarthy soon made his entrance and netted a wonderful overhead volley to win his side all three points and push them up to third on the log.
Pirates went with something of a surprise line-up, handing a debut to left-back Thabo Matlaba, a rare start for Rudolf Bester, and Ndumiso Mabena as their lead striker up front. Mabena was presented with a great scoring opportunity just four minutes in, but with only goalkeeper Francis Chansa to beat he blazed his effort over the crossbar.
The Buccaneers dominated the first 20 minutes or so, but the visitors gradually got a foothold in midfield and began to create some opportunities of their own. The best arrived on 34 minutes when a long throw-in from Peter Petersen went straight to Wayne Matle, but from close range the attacker completely missed the ball.
Matle then had a free header from Kurt Lentjies’s 45th minute free kick, but he failed to direct his header on target. The half ended with the scores at 0-0 and both teams, Pirates in particular, would have been disappointed with their efforts in the first stanza.
Bucs shuffled their pack upfront by introducing Thulasizwe Mbuyane in place of Mabena at the start of the second half, but apart from a glancing header from a corner kick that produced a straightforward save from Chansa, ‘Juju’ wasn’t able to stamp his authority on the game.
The first of two key moments arrived in the 63rd minute when Peter Petersen deliberately handled the ball and was shown a second yellow card, followed by a red, by referee Zolile Mthetho. Down to ten men, Maritzburg were suddenly fighting an uphill battle.
With 15 minutes to play McCarthy took centre stage, peeling away from his marker Byrone Hendricks in the penalty area before meeting a cross with a sweetly-hit overhead kick that found the back of the net via the inside of Chansa’s left-hand post.
Maritzburg thought they had claimed a late equaliser deep into injury time when substitute Prince Olomu stabbed home from close range after Mor Diouf won a knock-down in the penalty area, but it was scratched out for offside – TV replays suggested the Team of Choice were perhaps hard done by.
Orlando Pirates (0) 1 (McCarthy 75’)
Maritzburg United 0
Pirates: Josephs; Nzunga, Mahamutsa, Sangweni, Matlaba, Mabalane, Ntshumayelo, Manyisa, Bester (McCarthy 71’), Boa Morte (Rantie 62’), Mabena (Mbuyane 46’)
Maritzburg: Chansa; Petersen, Diouf, Hendricks, Evans, Obada (Olomu 87’), Morton, Madondo (M. Davids 82’), Lentjies, Matle (Mathuka 57’), Sibisi-PSL website.