Johannesburg (AFP) – Malawian Frank Mhango continued to wreak havoc among South African Premiership defenders this weekend, scoring twice for Orlando Pirates in a 2-1 victory at Chippa United.
The brace took his season tally to 14 from 20 matches, three more than his closest challenger for the Golden Boot, Bongi Ntuli from strugglers AmaZulu.
A higher salary lured 27-year-old Mhango from Bidvest Wits in Johannesburg to Pirates in nearby Soweto this season and the move has paid rich dividends for the Buccaneers.
He struck twice within 20 minutes against Chippa before a near-capacity crowd at the 46,000-seat Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in eastern coastal city Port Elizabeth.
Mhango calmly converted a penalty for the lead, then outpaced a defender and fired into the far corner to put in-form Pirates two goals ahead.
Chippa halved the deficit on 29 minutes when Nigerian Augustine Kwem caught goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands napping at his near post.
Given the number of chances both teams created in the second half, when Chippa had the edge, it was surprising that there were no further goals.
Victory lifted Pirates to second, nine points behind arch rivals Kaizer Chiefs, and gave German coach Josef Zinnbauer sixth wins and a draw in the league since taking charge.
“We dominated the opening half, created a lot of chances and should have been more than one goal ahead by half-time,” said the 49-year-old.
– ‘One match at a time’ –
“Chippa did come at us a lot in the second half, but they did not create that many clearcut scoring opportunities.
“Everyone is asking me if we can catch Chiefs and my answer is always that we are taking our league schedule one match at a time. I never think beyond the next game.”
Chiefs have 45 points, Pirates 36, defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns 35, SuperSport United 34 and Wits 30, but none of the challengers have played the same number of matches.
Wits, who did not play in the league because of a CAF Confederation Cup commitment, could yet pose the biggest threat to Chiefs as they have played four matches less than the leaders.
Chiefs, who are seeking a first trophy since winning the 2014/2015 Premiership, were inactive this weekend.
Despite five victories since former Zimbabwe captain and coach Norman Mapeza took the reins four months ago, Chippa remain in bottom half, five points above bottom club Polokwane City.
Polokwane fell 1-0 away to AmaZulu with Ntuli scoring the winner on the hour to lift the Durban outfit off the bottom of the table.
Black Leopards are ahead of AmaZulu on goal difference after captain and former Pirates star Thabo Matlaba scored on 85 minutes to earn a 2-1 home win over Stellenbosch.
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