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Micho’s Orlando Pirates on top after disputed win

FILE PHOTO: Micho guides his team in training. He has tightened the team defence and is now top of the table. PHOTO ORLANDO PIRATES

Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP | Resurgent Orlando Pirates controversially edged Cape Town City 1-0 in Soweto on Tuesday to take a three-point lead in the South African Premiership.

Thabo Qalinge scored the winner eight minutes from time and although City coach Benni McCarthy queried whether the ball crossed the line, big-screen replays showed it had.

A UEFA Champions League winner with Porto and a former Pirate, McCarthy was more unhappy about a disallowed first-half goal by Lehlohonolo Majoro.

The referee ruled that the striker fouled goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands as they went for a cross, but it was a hairline decision.

After a trophy-less 2015-2016 season under three different coaches, Pirates have regained the fighting spirit the club is renowned for under new handler Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic.

Back in charge of the Soweto outfit 10 years after a brief spell as coach, the methodical Serb has delivered three wins and two draws in his first five league matches.

Golden Arrows, Maritzburg United and Baroka, who all play Wednesday, share second place in the fledgling season.

The Pirates team have a work-in-progress look to them and could come a cropper against classy opponents, but the desire and never-say-die spirit lacking last season have returned.

“We play for this,” said soft-spoken Sredojevic to reporters, pointing to the club badge on his tracksuit top.

“Cape Town City were good tonight and I believed from the kick-off that one special moment would separate the teams. So it proved.

“There is an encouraging desire to win among my boys and they have really fought to secure 11 points from five matches.

“We need to improve our defence, midfield and attack, but are on the right track. I take one match at a time,” stressed the coach who won league titles in Sudan and Ethiopia.

Sredojevic also took Uganda to the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon this year — the first appearance of the country at the tournament since 1978.

After beginning the season with five consecutive wins in all competitions, McCarthy has lost back-to-back league matches against Soweto crowd-pullers Kaizer Chiefs and Pirates.

“We played good football until the final third, then panic set in. Football can be cruel to those who do not turn scoring opportunities into goals,” the 39-year-old admitted.

“Regarding the disallowed goal, the match is over and there is nothing we can do except take it on the chin and look ahead to the next match.”

Coaching novice McCarthy took over City during the close season and was part of the Jose Mourinho-managed Porto team that beat Monaco in the 2004 Champions League final.

Likely title contenders SuperSport United would have hoped for more than a 1-1 draw against Chippa United in Pretoria, especially after Siyabonga Nhlapo gave them an early lead.

Ghanaian Mohammed Anas bagged a brace as Free State Stars survived the first-half red-carding of Paulus Masehe to triumph 3-2 at Polokwane City.

The highlight of the four-fixture Wednesday schedule is the visit of Chiefs to Maritzburg.

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