The Star Late Edition
AmaZulu slip up as Pirates escape with point
RICHARD Mbulu’s 37th-minute goal consigned AmaZulu to their first defeat since February as Usuthu fell to a 1-0 loss against Baroka FC at King Zwelithini Stadium yesterday.
The result has effectively cleared the path for Mamelodi Sundowns to stroll towards another Premiership title.
Bakgaga’s goal came against the run of play with Evidence Makgopa first producing a dummy before finding Mbulu, who cut in from inside and fired in a shot which sailed beyond AmaZulu goalkeeper Veli Mothwa.
Baroka showed confidence against their second-placed opponents and had their first shot on goal as early as the third minute. Makgopa capitalised following a defensive error from Mbongeni Gumede, though the 20-year-old striker ended up failing to take advantage of the opportunity.
After meeting a pass from Siyethemba Sithebe in the 43rd minute, Lehlohonolo Majoro struck for goal and forced a brilliant save from Baroka keeper Oscarine Masuluke.
AmaZulu were fortunate to not have conceded a second goal, as a long ball ended up finding Makgopa on the stroke of halftime before the forward’s shot hit the post.
The result virtually kills off whatever slim hopes Benni McCarthy’s troops had of winning the championship this season.
AmaZulu failed to emulate the type of play they have shown since McCarthy was appointed as coach, as they uncharacteristically misplaced passes with mid-table Baroka looking like the better team for most of the game.
Sundowns can wrap up the league title with victory over SuperSport United in two weeks’ time.
At Danie Craven Stadium, meanwhile, Orlando Pirates made life difficult for themselves. The Soweto outfit were forced to settle for the share of the spoils after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Stellenbosch FC yesterday.
Pirates’ inconsistent run has let them down this season. Last week they were on cloud nine after hammering relegation threatened Black Leopards 3-0 to keep their chances of finishing in the top three – which guarantees continental football next season.
The Buccaneers remain fourth on the standings after bagging the point against Stellies. But they will know that they have let themselves down especially with third-placed Golden Arrows also pushing for a continental spot.
In fact, Pirates will consider themselves lucky that they even managed a point after Stellenbosch dominated possession in the first half. The home team though was let down by poor finishing in front of goal – with Ashley du Preez the main culprit.
The 23-year-old striker missed a sitter after being set-up by Augustine Dimgba. Soon thereafter, Wayne Sandilands was forced to save his team after keeping out a shot from Jayden Adams as Stellies applied pressure.
Pirates, though, returned a reinvigorated side in the second half. But they were not clinical enough, with Gabadinho Mhango forcing goalkeeper Lee Langeveldt into a fine stop after a delightful curling free kick.
Pirates will shift their focus to continental football this weekend. They’ll host Raja Casablanca in the quarter-finals of the Caf Confederation Cup at Orlando Stadium on Sunday. A win yesterday would have served as a huge morale booster heading to that game.