Pirates book semi spot after AmaZulu thriller

MAKHEHLENI Makhaula of Orlando Pirates challenges Taariq Fielies of AmaZulu during their Nedbank Cup quarter-final at Moses Mabhida Stadium last night. | BackpagePix

MAKHEHLENI Makhaula of Orlando Pirates challenges Taariq Fielies of AmaZulu during their Nedbank Cup quarter-final at Moses Mabhida Stadium last night. | BackpagePix

Published Apr 13, 2024


AmaZulu (1) 2

Ekstein 30’ Fielies 62’

Orlando Pirates (1) 4

Maswanganyi (Pen) 45’ 90+4 Dlamini 58’ Makhaula 84’

ORLANDO Pirates booked their place in the semi-finals of the Nedbank Cup with a hard-fought 4-2 win over AmaZulu at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday night.

The Sea Robbers remained on track to defend their title as they fought back from a goal down to keep their dominance over Usuthu intact.

Former Kaizer Chiefs player Pule Ekstein silenced the crowd when he broke the deadlock in the 30th minute after AmaZulu weathered an early storm from the visitors.

The experienced midfielder showed great instinct to latch onto a badly headed clearance by Pirates and composed himself before beating Sipho Chaine with a well-placed effort into the bottom corner.

Just as it seemed as if Usuthu would take their lead into the break, referee Masixole Bambiso gave Pirates a way back into the game as he awarded them a controversial penalty on the stroke of half-time.

After fuming protests and touchline clashes, Patrick Maswanganyi stepped up and sent Veli Mothwa the wrong way to level the score.

The momentum was clearly with Pirates in the second half and they made good of it as they snatched the lead in the 58th minute through Kabelo Dlamini.

The home team refused to lie down and fought their way back into the game as Taariq Fielies glanced his header past Chaine into the net.

It was as if it was scripted that a memorable encounter would see former Usuthu player Makhehlene Makhaula score the potential match winner in the dying minutes of the game.

Player of the Match Maswanganyi added a fourth goal in added time to complete Pirates’ comeback.

Much of the pre-match build-up around this titanic encounter in Durban had been about Usuthu’s inability to shake off ‘The Ghost’ of not beating Pirates on their own patch.

Usuthu coach Pablo Franco may have downplayed his side’s desperation ahead of this encounter, but a defensively weakened Pirates presented the perfect opportunity.

With the likes of Thapelo Xoki and Nkosinathi Sibisi missing out due to suspension, Innocent Maela was required to babysit 23-year-old Thabiso Sesane at centre-back.

Looking to take advantage of those frailties, AmaZulu paired the in-form Victor Letsoalo with the pace of Tshepang Moremi up front, supported by Bafana Bafana international Mlondi Mbanjwa behind.

The sold-out affair showed early signs of a possible spectacle as kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes due to the late arrival of a considerable number of fans.

The opening 10 minutes saw AmaZulu seemingly caught in the headlights as Pirates used the noise of the 47,000-plus crowd to apply early overwhelming pressure and perhaps should’ve scored the early opener.

Pirates’ in-form striker Tshegofatso Mabasa was nearly gifted a fourth goal in two matches after a bad passing error by Fielies.

However, the usually clinical marksman took too long to unleash his shot, giving Usuthu’s Ramahlwe Mphahlele an opportunity to get behind his goalkeeper for a clearance.

The first half was eventful as tackles flew in from everywhere, tempers flared and the referee was the centre of attention.

Pirates once again proved their experience of winning cup competitions as they sealed the win despite surviving a late onslaught.