Orlando Pirates edged 10-man Bloemfontein Celtic 1-0 in a DStv Premiership match at Orlando Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Fortune Makaringe netted the only goal of the game as the Buccaneers claimed an eighth league win of the campaign, leapfrogged to third place and moved to within four points of leaders Mamelodi Sundowns – having now played three more matches than the champions.
Phunya Sele Sele, meanwhile, had captain Ndumiso Mabena sent off late in the first half and suffered an eighth loss, leaving them in 11th place and two points adrift of the top half of the table.
Pirates looked the livelier team in attacking terms in the opening stages, with Vincent Pule’s movement causing trouble for the Celtic defence, though there were no clear chances created by the home team with which to test Celtic goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane.
The hosts found more and more rhythm in their passing as the half wore on, but the quality of their final ball was often lacking – leaving the likes of Pule, Linda Mntambo and Deon Hotto frustrated in their attempts to find a way to goal.
Bucs produced a proper scoring opportunity on 39 minutes when Pule whipped in a cross from the left flank to find Hotto, but the Namibian’s attempt at an acrobatic volley skewed high and wide. Mabokgwane finally made a notable save in the last minute of regulation time in the first half, reacting sharply to smother a volley from Siphesihle Ndlovu.
The first half ended with the teams level at 0-0, but Celtic suffered a major blow just before the interval when former Pirates man Ndumiso Mabena was deservedly shown a straight red card for a studs-up challenge on Mntambo.
The Bloemfontein side introduced Harris Tchilimbou at the beginning of the second stanza, as they reshuffled with their 10 men, while Pirates threatened within 90 seconds of the restart as Pule drove a low effort just wide of Mabokgwane’s right-hand post.
Despite being down to 10 men, Celtic on 50 minutes created the best chance of the game to that point when Victor Letsoalo mugged Thulani Hlatshwayo to have a sight of goal from a tight angle, but Richard Ofori made a fine save with his legs.
The Pirates ‘keeper was called into major action again in the 58th minute, coming off his line to deny Lucky Baloyi after excellent combination play from the 10-man team had put the charging midfielder in on goal.
The Buccaneers finally broke the deadlock two minutes after the hour mark, with Fortune Makaringe moving into space in a central area just outside the ‘D’ of the box before firing a low, long-range effort into the bottom corner of the net for 1-0.
The goal did not open the floodgates for the hosts, who nonetheless saw out the game in relative comfort, while Celtic put in a fighting effort but simply could not overcome their numerical disadvantage.
The teams will return to DStv Premiership action on Saturday 6 March, with Pirates visiting Chippa United and Celtic hosting Maritzburg United.
Orlando Pirates (0) 1 (Makaringe 62’)
Bloemfontein Celtic 0
Pirates: Ofori, Ndlovu, Jele, Hlatshwayo, Mako, Makaringe, Motshwari, Dlamini (Tshobeni 76’), Pule (Sam 88’), Hotto (Mabasa 75’), Mntambo (Mhango 88’)
Celtic: Mabokgwane, Ngobeni, Chabalala, Mahashe, Pfumbidzai (Maema 68’), Kobedi, Baloyi, Mashikinya (Potsane 68’), Masuku (Tchilimbou 46’), Mabena, Letsoalo (Ndwandwe 81’)