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Relief at last

Gaba maintains golden boot chase with classic goal

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Relief was the prevalent emotion as Malawi national football team striker Gabadinho Mhango came off the bench to net his 15th goal of the season that saw his South Africa Premier Soccer League (PSL) side, Orlando Pirates, claim a dramatic 1-0 victory over Maritzburg United on Wednesday night.

Mhango started on the bench after Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer opted for Vincent Pule and Thembinkosi Lorch to lead the striking force.

As the match looked destined for a barren stalemate, Zinnbauer pulled out Fortune Makaringe and introduced Mhango in the 82nd minute.

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This was a perfect opportunity for the Malawian to prove his worth and he did it in style with a classic goal as the match neared the end.

In its online report, www.news24.com described Mhango’s goal as a sucker punch.

“Just when it looked like the two teams would be forced to settle for a share of the spoils, Pirates hit Maritzburg with a sucker punch in the first minute of injury time. Substitute Mhango latched onto a pass from Kabelo Dlamini before rifling a shot past maritzbury goalkeeper Richard Ofori and into the back of the net,” reads part of the report.

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It was a timely goal for the Flames star as he revived his golden boot chase after Highlands Park striker Peter Shalulile had also netted his 15th of the season in an earlier match.

This means the chase for the PSL golden boot award will go down to the wire as Mhango and Shalulile are joint top goal scorers.

Mhango must ensure that he scores as Pirates wind up their season with a showdown against Stellenbosch on Saturday.

Before the Wednesday night goal, Mhango had gone eight league games without scoring since netting a brace during a 2-1 victory over Chippa United in February.

Mhango described the goal as a morale booster in his quest to outclass his competitors.

“The most important thing is that we won the game. The goal has boosted my confidence and I am excited to return to scoring ways. I know my country is wishing me well in the golden boot award chase and I am doing my best not to disappoint them. I thank all Malawians for their support,” Mhango said.

Football analyst George Kaudza Masina said the goal was a sigh of relief for Mhango.

“Gaba was under pressure. Going six matches without a goal is not good for a striker and it was not easy for him to rediscover his scoring boots. The goal came from an individual effort, typical of a striker who fights his way through.

“Our biggest worry was that he would end up missing the golden boot award, but this goal will motivate him to score again on the final day and I am sure he will do it,” Masina said.

The former Nyasa Big Bullets star is hoping to become the first Malawian to win the golden boot award in South Africa after surpassing his goal tally since moving to the PSL in 2013.

Before signing for Pirates, his best tally was nine goals which he scored for Bloemfontein Celtic in his first season.

SuperSport United’s Bradley Grobler is also in contention for this season’s golden boot accolade with 14 goals.

Mhango should also be on the lookout for Kaizer Chiefs gangling forward Samir Nurkovic, Knox Mutizwa of Golden Arrows and Amazulu’s Bongi Ntuli who have 13 goals each.

Meanwhile, the Flames duo of Khuda Muyaba and Denis Chembezi could find themselves in the GladAfrica Championship next season after their team, Polokwane City, suffered a 3-1 loss to second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns.

Their only chance to return to the top flight comes on Sunday when they will compete in the PSL play-offs.

Masina said playing in the lower league was not good for the Malawian players.

“It is unfortunate that Chembezi and Khuda have been relegated. It is also disappointing that Mbulu, Phiri Junior and Robert Ng’ambi are also fighting relegation. For our national team to deliver, we need more players in top leagues,” he said.

Ng’ambi’s Black Leopards registered a 1-0 win over Bidvest Wits on Wednesday but this was not enough as Lidoda Dhuva remain stuck on 14th position with 29 points.

Phiri Jnr and Mbulu’s Baroka were beaten 4-1 by Sundowns to drop to position 15 with 28 points.

The 2019/20 Absa PSL season concludes on Saturday with Kaizer Chiefs and Sundowns fighting for the championship.

Both teams have 56 points with Chiefs leading on goal difference.

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