Boom! Just like that, it was done and delivered. Malawian Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango kept up his rich vein of form in the South African top-flight football league when he scored his first hat-trick for Orlando Pirates in their 4-1 victory over Polokwane City on Tuesday night in Polokwane.
The 27-year-old striker has now scored six goals in three consecutive matches for the Buccaneers. This means he has scored in all the matches since German coach Josef Zinnbauer took over.
The hat-trick saw the prolific Flames forward overtaking Highlands Park’s Peter Shalulile by a goal to top the Premier Soccer League’s (PSL) scorers’ chart with 10 goals.
However, Shalulile and three others—Kaizer Chiefs’ Samir Nurkovic, Golden Arrows’ Knox Mutizwa and Amazulu FC’s Bongi Ntuli—who are tied on eight goals, had a chance to either catch up or overtake Mhango during last night’s matches.
In a match monitored on Digital Satellite Television’s (DStv) SuperSport channel, Mhango’s first strike at Peter Mokaba Stadium, which came in the fifth minute, left the fans a little out of their breath.
It had all the hallmarks of theatre and art. With the ball firmly glued to his foot on the left flank, he appeared to have a little chance of beating his marker, but the touch of majesty that followed, was a wonder to behold.
He turned his opponent inside out and then, his deadly intentions became very clear. In a flash, he produced a sweet curling drive that gave the hosts’ ‘keeper George Chigova not a prayer.
The second, which came barely nine minutes later, was also a beauty. That signature drift into an open space, a first touch pregnant with assurance and, then, he outpaced his marker before cooly chipping the ball past the advancing Zimbabwean goaltender.
Mhango was not done yet. He was floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. With nine minutes to recess, he bagged his hat-trick with a simple, but classic finish.
Ben Motshwari scored the fourth just before break to give Pirates a 4-0 comfortable lead at half time.
But Polokwane came into the second half with renewed purpose, forcing Pirates into rearguard action and the Rise and Shine got their consolation goal when Mohammed Anas made up for an earlier missed penalty to score with a simple finish in the 64th minute.
In a post-match interview with SuperSport, a delighted Mhango, who was also named man-of-the-match, attributed his sublime performance to teamwork.
“I think first of all I need to thank God and thank my team-mates. I thank the supporters for coming in numbers to give their support to us. It’s something that we started at training and for me I just want to keep going and keep pushing for my team-mates.
“This is the second time for me [to score a hat-trick], but I think we’ll see more coming,” he said.
His first hat-trick was in 2016 while on loan at Golden Arrows in a 4-2 victory over Mpumalanga Black Aces when he netted three goals within the first 33 minutes.
Flames coach Meck Mwase waxed lyrical about Mhango’s form.
“Gaba is making us proud. He is on top of his game. I think his switch to a big club like Pirates was good because he needed such a challenge whereby you have to be on top of your game all the time.
“He has proved that with dedication and self-belief, anything is possible and I hope he will keep up the momentum,” he said. The win took the Buccaneers to the fifth spot on the league standings with 24 points from 16 matches.