Orlando Pirates missed the chance to move clear of third-placed SuperSport United in the race for second place finish in the DStv Premiership after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Royal AM at the Orlando Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
With one eye on the weekend’s Nedbank Cup action, Buccaneers coach Jose Riveiro opted for a much-changed side, and 17-year-old debutant Relebohile Ratomo forced an own goal early in the second half.
The hosts appeared to be on course for victory, but Menzi Masuku headed home in injury time at the end of the game to keep the race for second place alive.
The result means Pirates hold a two-point advantage over third-placed SuperSport United with just two rounds of the season remaining, while Thwihli Thwahla rise to eighth place on the log.
After a bright opening, Pirates should have claimed the lead on 17 minutes, with a well-worked move seeing Kermit Erasmus play a great pass to put Deon Hotto in on goal, but the winger hit the top of the crossbar with his attempt at a finish.
Seconds later the hosts stole the ball high up the pitch and Erasmus managed to round debutant goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto and send a shot on target, but his effort was heroically cleared off the goal line by Jabulani Ncobeni.
The Buccaneers continued to dominate and forced Thwihli Thwahla’s Mpoto into some notable saves, but they were unable to break the deadlock through the remainder of the first half, leaving the game goalless at the break.
The second half continued in the same vein as the first and Bucs were finally rewarded in the 56th minute when youngster Ratomo picked up a loose ball outside the penalty area after a corner kick and scored with a shot that took a wicked deflection off veteran Elias Pelembe.
Royal almost came up with an immediate reply when a direct move gave Sedwyn George a chance on the edge of the box, but goalkeeper Sipho Chaine came far off his line to make a crucial block.
The visitors opted for a quadruple change midway through the second half, including Mfundo Thikazi, who came close to claiming an equaliser with a left-footed shot on 73 minutes which forced a sharp save from Chaine.
Yet Chaine could do nothing to prevent former Pirates player Menzi Masuku from heading home in the first minute of injury time to make it 1-1, with Ncobeni doing great work down the left flank to tee up the goal scorer.
The teams will return to DStv Premiership action on Saturday 13 May, with Pirates at home to Sekhukhune United and Royal at home to Swallows FC.
Orlando Pirates (0) 1 (Ratomo/Pelembe og 56’)
Royal AM (0) 1 (Masuku 90+1’)
Pirates: Chaine, Shandu (Monyane 72’), Sibisi, Mthethwa, Mako, Makhaula (Monare 86’), Makaringe (Motshwari 72’), Ndlondlo, Ratomo, Hotto (Saleng 60’), Erasmus (Nga 72’)
Royal: Mpoto, Mogaila, Jele, Manganyi, Matlaba (Dube 65’), Sikakane (Masuku 79’), Ncobeni, Pelembe (Thikazi 65’), Potsane, Magaqa (Kobedi 65’), George (Sera 65’)
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