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Football | Absa Premiership

Maluleka and McCarthy © Gallo Images

Pirates' hopes hit by Ajax draw



Ajax Cape Town dented Orlando Pirates' title hopes by holding the Bucs to a 1-1 draw at Cape Town Stadium on Friday night.

Although Pirates had the first chance of the game when Rudolf Bester shot straight at Sander Westerveld after being set up by Benni McCarthy, it was Ajax who spent more time in the opposition half, winning a string of corners in the process.

Bucs suffered a 13th minute setback when Bheki Nzunga went off with concussion. Substitute Benson Mhlongo slotted into centre back.

The Urban Warriors drew first blood, George Maluleka scoring in the 23rd minute with a well-taken first-time volley after Oupa Manyisa got himself into an awkward position in defence.

The lead lasted only three minutes as Bucs hit back through Lucky Lekgwathi, the defender crashing a low shot past Westerveld after good interplay involving Manyisa and Bester.

Maluleka went on a storming run almost immediately from the restart and nearly restored Ajax's lead with a good effort from a very acute angle.

The second half continued at a relentless pace.

It was Bucs who had the first chance of the stanza, with McCarthy looking set to score from Tokelo Rantie's 63rd minute cross, but his header flashed wide.

A minute later, Granwald Scott had a chance to put Ajax back in front, but under pressure he skied his shot over the bar.

Maluleka had an industrious night for the Cape side and had another go at goal in the 77th minute, hitting his shot well, but struck an opposition player.

Soon afterwards, a slip-up in the home defence nearly let in McCarthy, but Westerveld saved with a timely intervention.

Brent Carelse looked to have the winner lined up in the 85th minute, but Manyisa bravely put his body in the way.

The game remained thrilling and open right up to the final whistle, although neither side were able to create any further clear-cut chances.

Pirates move three points clear at the top of the Premiership standings, but all other title contenders have a game in hand.

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