Sun, 05 Apr 2020

Johannesburg - Orlando Pirates made it seven victories and a draw in the Absa Premiership since Josef Zinnbauer became head coach with a freak goal giving them a 1-0 win at Black Leopards Sunday.

A Vincent Pule cross was deflected by Thabiso Mokoena over his goalkeeper Rotshidzwa Muleka and into the net a minute into stoppage time in northeastern town Thohoyandou.

Most of the capacity 20 000 crowd crammed into a rudimentary stadium erupted with joy as second-place Pirates closed the gap behind league leaders and arch rivals Kaizer Chiefs to six points.

While Pirates remain in contention for a fifth Premiership title, Leopards are third from bottom, ahead of last-place AmaZulu on goal difference and Polokwane City on goals scored.

Zinnbauer, who coached Hamburg in the Bundesliga for seven months from September 2014 before being sacked, is the third coach this season of former African champions Pirates.

Serb Milutin "Micho" Sredojevic quit to join Egyptian giants Zamalek and a string of disappointing results under caretaker Rhulani Mokoena led to his dismissal.

Zinnbauer was not a popular choice with the public and media pointing to a 25% win rate at Hamburg and only a slightly better record later with Swiss outfit St Gallen.

But Zinnbauer, 49, has taken a club languishing in the lower half of the 16-club table into contention for a record R15 million rand first prize.

'Fighters and hungry for success'

Pirates and Chiefs, the biggest crowd-pulling clubs in South Africa, meet in the next round on February 29 and seem sure to attract a capacity 90 000 crowd.

"Our goalkeeper (Wayne Sandilands) rescued us several times in the first half before we exerted control. My players are fighters and hungry for success," said Zinnbauer.

Man-of-the-match award winner Sandilands added: "It is a great achievement to leave Thohoyandou with maximum points. We must remain humble and take one game at a time."

Meanwhile, Chiefs lost 2-1 at home to sixth-place Maritzburg United, whose goals came within one minute from Daylon Claasen midway through the second half in Soweto.

A blunder by Nigeria goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi gifted United the opening goal as Chiefs suffered a third league loss in 20 matches.

Ghana shot-stopper Richard Ofori made several superb reflex saves for Maritzburg before being beaten by a header from Serb Samir Nurkovic on 78 minutes.

Maritzburg have been a bogey team for Chiefs this season, shocking them in a League Cup semi-final and coming from behind to draw in the first round of the Premiership.

Defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns stayed third, a point behind Pirates, after an early Nicholus Lukhubeni goal set up a 3-0 home win over lowly Chippa United in Pretoria.

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