If Orlando Pirates arrived at Thohoyandou Stadium expecting an easy afternoon, they were brought down to earth with a huge bump by Black Leopards in their Premier Soccer League (PSL) match on Sunday.
The home side, who usually spend most of their season fighting to keep out of the relegation zone, beat Pirates 2-0 and the margin of their victory could have been a couple more if they had taken their chances when the Buccaneers were chasing the game.
A disjointed Pirates were caught cold, especially in the early stages, as Innocent Maela headed the ball into his own net after half an hour to give the perennial relegation candidates the advantage.
Rodrick Kabwe doubled the lead for Leopards five minutes later as the Zambian attacker punished sloppy defending from their visitors, who looked a shadow of the team that sleepwalked its way to a 3-0 victory at the same venue against Tshakuma FC four days earlier.
Pirates were harmless in front of goal with just two shots on target and their defending was poor, with captain Thulani Hlatshwayo and Ntsikelelo Nyauza found wanting in central defence.
Nyauza was hauled off hobbling and replaced with regular captain Happy Jele, who looked to stabilise things at the back, but the attacking trio of Deon Hotto, Vincent Pule and Frank Mhango fired blanks.
Josef Zinnbauer’s team started their pursuit of PSL glory badly at the beginning of the season as they lost to champions and leaders Mamelodi Sundowns earlier in January.
They conceded a last-minute equaliser in their second match of 2021 against surprise joint leaders Swallows FC, then emphatically beat Tshakuma before they were stunned by plucky Leopards.
The last time the Buccaneers won back-to-back matches in the PSL was in November.
The defeat leaves them in fifth place on 17 points from 11 matches, trailing joint leaders Sundowns and Swallows by eight points.
The win for Leopards moves them from bottom of the standings into 13th place on nine points, a point ahead of relegation rivals Tshakuma, Maritzburg United and TS Galaxy, who plunged to the foot of the table at the weekend after a home defeat against Chippa United.
It was only the second time this season that Pirates failed to score in a league match. However, with just 13 goals from 11 matches, they have not been prolific in front of goal.
In the other game of the day, AmaZulu and Maritzburg United played to a goalless draw in the KwaZulu-Natal derby.
AmaZulu are 10th on the table with 11 points from 11 games while Maritzburg are 12th in the 16-team league with nine points, also from 11 games. Bottom side TS Galaxy have accumulated eight points from 11 games.