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Lucky Orlando Pirates rise to top in South Africa

Johannesburg (AFP) – A stoppage-time own goal gave Orlando Pirates a fortunate 1-0 win at Bidvest Wits on Saturday and first place in the South African Premiership with five rounds remaining.

Midfielder Keegan Ritchie was heartbroken when the final whistle sounded in Johannesburg after his attempt to head a free-kick clear flew back past goalkeeper Ricardo Goss instead.

A draw would have been a fairer outcome to a match that never lived up to its billing as a clash of clubs who started in second and third places, three points behind Mamelodi Sundowns.

Pirates and Sundowns now have 44 points each with the Soweto Buccaneers, chasing a first title since 2012, ahead on goal difference.

Wits have 41 points and Cape Town City, who fell 1-0 away to mid-table Golden Arrows, 40 in a championship chase that is gradually becoming a two-club affair.

Sundowns, who have a match in hand, remain slight favourites to defend the title with Pirates the biggest threat.

A late goal all but ended the hopes of Cape Town City winning the title for the first time with Lerato Lamola scoring eight minutes from time for Arrows in Durban.

At the other end of the table, relegation candidates Chippa United and Baroka achieved 1-0 away victories after bottom club Maritzburg United had won at home Friday.

Andile Mbenyane scored midway through the first half to give Chippa maximum points against bottom-half AmaZulu in Durban.

Premiership players are becoming increasingly good at scoring direct from free-kicks and a superb 66th-minute effort from Tshidiso Patjie got Baroka a surprise win at Kaizer Chiefs.

Chippa, Baroka and Free State Stars, who did not play after the death of star Sinethemba Jantjie in a car accident this week, have 24 points each and Maritzburg 20.

The club finishing last is relegated and replaced by the second division champions while the second-last side goes into play-offs with two second-tier teams for one Premiership place.

Relegation has dire financial consequences as top-flight clubs receive a 1.5 million rand ($105,000/95,000 euros) monthly grant, five times that of second division sides. 

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