Butholezwe Ncube of AmaZulu challenges Gabadinho Mhango of Orlando Pirates during the DStv Premiership 2020/21 match between Orlando Pirates and AmaZulu on the 27 May 2021 at Orlando Stadium, Soweto. Picture:BACKPAGEPIX/SYDNEY MAHLANGU
Butholezwe Ncube of AmaZulu challenges Gabadinho Mhango of Orlando Pirates during the DStv Premiership 2020/21 match between Orlando Pirates and AmaZulu on the 27 May 2021 at Orlando Stadium, Soweto. Picture:BACKPAGEPIX/SYDNEY MAHLANGU

Orlando Pirates brought themselves back into the equation for second place in the Premier Soccer League  gritting out a 1-0 win over Amazulu at Orlando Stadium on Thursday.

Gabadinho Mhango’s excellent 76th-minute free-kick separated the teams.

AmaZulu (50 points from 28 games) remain in second spot and pole position for the runners-up place.

Bucs (46 points from 27 matches) brought themselves to within four points of Benni McCarthy’s Durban team, who have shown signs of a speed wobble, suffering a second defeat to follow a 1-0 loss at home to Baroka FC. Before that  AmaZulu had gone 16 league games unbeaten.

And Pirates have three matches left to Usuthu’s two. Bucs drew level on points with third-placed Lamontville Golden Arrows, who they also have a game in hand on, just goal difference keeping the Soweto giants in fourth place.

The second-placed finishers qualify for the Caf Champions League, and third-placed for the Confederation Cup.

The notable aspect of Josef Zinnbauer’s Pirates XI was the return of Thembinkosi Lorch who had been out with an injury for three months.

McCarthy had one of his star attackers this season, Luvuyo Memela, on AmaZulu’s bench.

Usuthu suffered a setback when Makhehlene Makhaula — nominated for Premiership midfielder of the season this week — went off with a groin injury in the seventh minute, to be replaced by Butholezwe Ncube.

Pirates made the early running, and pressed for an opener in a first half where neither team found their shape or rhythm.

Zinnbauer introduced Vincent Pule for Deon Hotto at the start of the second half. Within three minutes, from a throw-in Lorch had the ball on the front edge of the area and touched to Pule, who skipped past centreback Tapelo Xoki and forced a save from Mothwa.

Usuthu were unfortunate when the ex-Pirates duo of Thabo Qalinge with the cross and Majoro with a bullet header were denied by the top left corner of the post. A stray pass from substitute Abel Mabaso allowed Memela to curl a strike moments later that had Siyabonga Mpontshane at full stretch.

Mhango, after earning the free-kick with a run through the middle that forced a foul from Ncube, bent the set-piece superbly past Mothwa into the top-left corner.

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