By MJ Majuru
Orlando Pirates got their league season campaign off to a winning start under new coach Milutin Sredojevic, as they beat Chippa United 1-0 in an Absa Premiership match, played at the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday evening.
The Buccaneers certainly looked a far better organised and attacking unit than they were last season, and pressed for the opening goal right from the start.
At the other end of the park, Pirates’ experienced goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands, who was signed from Mamelodi Sundowns in the off-season, was not bothered by the Chippa strike force in the first half.
The hosts broke the deadlock in the 38th minute, when Pirates midfielder and ex-Chippa skipper Thamsanqa Sangweni curved a cross into the park which found left back Innocent Maela. He in turn fired in the perfect ball for his first namesake, striker Thamsanqa Gabuza, to head home past Chippa’s former Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Brighton Mhlongo.
Maela, who helped Thanda Royal Zulu to win the National First Division title last season, before the Richards Bay club sold their franchise to Amazulu, was a continuous thorn in the flesh to the hosts, with his solid defending and strong running. Together with captain Thabo Matlaba, Pirates defence never looked like conceding a goal on the night.
For Chippa, the experienced Kurt Lentjies, signed from Maritzburg United during the offseason, gave the Pirates midfielders a torrid time, and his shot in the 35th minute, which narrowly went over the Pirates crossbar, was the closest that the visitors came to scoring in the opening 45 minutes.
It took 85 minutes before Sandilands was called on to make a save in the Pirates goal, as he was forced to punch a header out of the danger area for a corner kick.
Pirates’ next league encounter is a trip to the Limpopo province to take on Baroka FC on Wednesday, while Chippa will host Amazulu in Port Elizabeth on the same day.