Shonga inspires Pirates win to lift Buccaneers to league summit
Orlando Pirates moved to the top of the Absa Premiership standings with an entertaining 2-1 victory over high-flying Polokwane City at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Tuesday.
Brazilian fullback Caio Marcelo and Zambian Justin Shonga netted the goals for The Buccaneers, who have a two-point advantage at the summit, but have played two games more than second-placed Bidvest Wits.
They now face a crunch away clash with defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday which, if they can get a win, would be a major statement of their league title credentials as they go in search of a first championship since the 2011/12 season.
Shonga had the best chance of the opening half against City, but dragged his shot wide after being expertly set-up by Thabo Qalinge.
He was in the thick of the action though and laid on the first goal for the visitors when his free-kick was headed home by the giant left-back Marcelo for his first goal in South African football.
It was another assist for Shonga, who had set up both goals against Kaizer Chiefs in Pirates' recent Soweto Derby win over Kaizer Chiefs, but there was more to come from him.
He curled a low free-kick around the City wall and as the ball skidded off the wet surface, it had the beating of home goalkeeper George Chigova, who looked menacingly at his defenders lined up in the wall.
Pirates handed a debut to defender Abel Mabaso when he was a late substitute for Thembinkosi Lorch, but they were left with a nervous finish after City pulled one back.
Ayanda Nkili powered home a header from a corner after Jabu Maluleke had earlier forced an excellent save from Pirates keeper Jackson Mabokgwane and Rodney Ramagalela was also denied by the gloveman.
There will be two more matches in the league on Wednesday when Kaizer Chiefs host Black Leopards and Sundowns welcome Free State Stars.
Pirates, Chiefs, Sundowns and Stars are in action as they will have to miss fixtures later in the year when they take part in African club competition.