Orlando Pirates ran out 3-1 victors over a 10-man Free State Stars at Goble Park on Tuesday evening.
Milutin Sredojevic’s side most recently lost the TKO final to Baroka on penalties this past weekend, but they bounced back with first-half goals from Thembinkosi Lorch and Justin Shonga, before Linda Mntambo sealed the win at the death.
Happy Jele netted an own-goal early in the second half before Sibusiso Masina’s dismissal late on.
Some stray passing from both teams hampered the flow of the game in the opening stages.
Free State Stars though settled well and almost stunned the Soweto giants on three minutes.
Rooi Mahamutsa launched a long throw into the box from the left and Sifiso Mbhele rose highest to meet it, but his header flew just wide of the left post.
Pirates though hit the front with their first chance on 14 minutes when a training-ground routine saw Shonga cut a free-kick from the right back for Lorch, who rifled the ball home from 12 yards out.
Sinethemba Jantjie looked to respond for Ea Lla Koto with a shot from 22 yards out that fizzed past the left post on 22 minutes, while Lorch attempted to catch Ali Sangare off his line moments later as his audacious long-range effort from near the halfway line cleared the crossbar.
The hosts threatened again on 25 minutes when Harris Tchilimbou connected with Jantjie’s cross from the right, but the Congo striker hit his acrobatic volley into the ground and over the bar.
The visiting fans were celebrating a second goal on 28 minutes though, as Shonga showed good composure inside the box to slot past Sangare from 13 yards out after being played in by Augustine Mulenga’s square pass.
Tchilimbou came close with two good chances for Stars either side of half-time when he headed wide at the near post from promising positions, but Pirates opened the door on 52 minutes courtesy of an own-goal from Jele, who turned home Jantjie’s driven cross with his knee.
The woodwork then came to the visitors’ rescue as Jantjie cut onto his left foot and saw his curler from 19 yards out come back off the right post in the 59th minute, while Tchilimbou tested Siyabonga Mpontshane with a bouncing strike from 25 yards out two minutes later.
Bucs struggled to get going in the second half and they came under increasing pressure from David Vilakazi’s troops in the closing stages, with Mpontshane required to save Jantjie’s rasping drive from range 16 minutes from time.
The sting was taken out of Stars’ tail in the 88th minute, however, when Masina was shown a straight red card for a studs-up challenge on Mpho Makola, just moments after coming off the bench.
Mntambo rubbed salt into their wounds with another goal for Pirates in stoppage time. The midfielder latched onto the ball inside the area on the right and chipped Sangare from a narrow angle to wrap up victory.