By Sazi Hadebe, timeslive.co.za
There’s no stopping Gabadinho Mhango’s remarkable debut season at Orlando Pirates as he takes his league tally to 14 goals when he helped Bucs beat Chippa United 2-1 in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
They jumped two places to second place and nine points behind Absa Premiership leaders and their big Soweto rivals, Kaizer Chiefs.
Mhango is now four goals clear to those following him in the race to win Lesley Manyathela’s Golden Boot award at the end of the current campaign.
The win is the fourth in a row and seventh for Pirates in an incredible unbeaten run of nine matches.
The victory also keeps Josef Zinnbauer’s unconquered streak intact, with seven games without defeat since the German joined Bucs in December.
In a game in which Chippa were celebrating their first decade of existence, Mhango was a party pooper as he scored the opening goal in the 12th minute from a penalty spot.
Chippa defender Gregory Damons was late with a challenge on Innocent Maela and Mhango made no mistake placing his kick down the middle to beat Veli Mothwa in the home side’s goal.
Mothwa was to gift Mhango his brace eight minutes later when he parried Abel Mabaso’s cross inside the area into the Bucs goal poacher’s path.
Mhango took one touch to control the ball before placing it into an empty net.
Chippa were, however, not demoralised and deservedly halved Bucs’ lead in the 30th minute when Augustine Kwem did well to control Silas Masina’s pass in the box before unleashing a well-placed low shot to beat Wayne Sandilands.
Credit should go to Zinnbauer for teaching Pirates players how to manage a lead, something they battled with under former coach Rulani Mokwena in the first half of the season.
As Chippa came back stronger in the second half, Zinnbauer introduced defensive players Siphesihle Ndlovu, Thabiso Nonyane and Alfred Ndengane to ensure he won his second match on the road as Bucs coach.
But Zinnbauer’s acumen will be really tested in Bucs’ next two big matches in February — the first against Bidvest Wits in the last 32 of the Nedbank Cup in Orlando next Sunday.
Bucs will then host Chiefs at the FNB Stadium in a blockbuster of a league match on February 29.
That Soweto derby will go a long way in determining Bucs’ late challenge for the league title.