Cos­mos rel­e­gated

CityPress - - Sport - TI­MOTHY MOLOBI at Olen Park ti­mothy@city­press.co.za

This was prob­a­bly the loveli­est fin­ish to the most hor­ri­ble sea­son for Mar­itzburg United as they es­caped rel­e­ga­tion here yes­ter­day.

Their win meant they fin­ished in 14th place, ahead of Uni­ver­sity of Pre­to­ria, who will be in­volved in the na­tional play-offs, while Jomo Cos­mos were rel­e­gated. Mo­hau Mokate and Evans Rusike’s sec­ond-half goals en­sured Mar­itzburg United stayed up and sur­vived the drop to the Na­tional First Di­vi­sion (NFD).

Af­ter toy­ing with rel­e­ga­tion for the bet­ter part of the sea­son, Mar­itzburg made it on the last day – prov­ing that it is not how you start, but how you fin­ish that counts.

They saved their best for last as they con­demned Cos­mos to the NFD. Linda Mn­tambo’s first-half goal was not enough to save them. This is the fifth time Cos­mos have been rel­e­gated.

Af­ter es­cap­ing with a slap on the wrist for field­ing an im­prop­erly reg­is­tered player in Thabo Modiba, Cos­mos could not af­ford any more slip-ups, but they let them­selves down. They must pay a R200 000 fine and knew stay­ing in the elite league and get­ting their monthly R1.5 mil­lion grant was go­ing to ease their fi­nan­cial bur­den.

Another sea­son in the lower league awaits them, but be­fore that, po­ten­tially a huge re­build­ing job is needed. This is not a team that only needs a few tweaks here and there – it needs a to­tal over­haul. The NFD is a tough, com­pet­i­tive league and pro­mo­tion de­mands high stan­dards of con­sis­tency.

Com­ing to this game, both sides knew that one had to bite the dust af­ter 90 min­utes. Cos­mos needed only a draw to safe­guard their sta­tus, while Mar­itzburg needed an out­right vic­tory to con­demn Ezenkosi to rel­e­ga­tion.

Things were tense long be­fore kick­off and the two coaches re­fused to shake hands. It wasn’t any bet­ter on the field as the teams went for each other. The mes­sage was clear: go out and do ev­ery­thing you can to win.

The vis­i­tors started the brighter side, launch­ing a few at­tacks, but found Cos­mos’ de­fence very tight.

Play­ing un­der this kind of pres­sure was never go­ing to be an easy thing to han­dle, and the nerves showed at times as play­ers com­mit­ted too many un­forced er­rors.

Af­ter go­ing to the break be­hind on the score sheet, Mar­itzburg knew a lot de­pended in the final 45 min­utes, and they went all-out in this half as they knew it could be their final half in the elite league. The in­tro­duc­tion of Abia Nale at the be­gin­ning of the sec­ond half made them more of­fen­sive in this stanza. They played as if their lives de­pended on it, and were re­warded at the end.

The Mar­itzburg side was de­nied by goal­keeper Sher­wyn Naicker in the 56th minute and a few min­utes later, their penalty ap­peal fell on ref­eree Daniel Ben­nett’s deaf ears. But that did not mat­ter much as goals by Mokate and Rusike’s brace earned them their most cru­cial three points of the sea­son.

The final whis­tle brought wild cel­e­bra­tions from the trav­el­ling sup­port­ers and the man­age­ment team.

But they know they came so very close to go­ing down.

PHOTO: GAVIN BARKER / BACKPAGEPIX

ONE TEAM TO RULE THEM Sun­downs are crowned Absa Premier­ship cham­pi­ons af­ter their match against Plat­inum Stars yes­ter­day

PHOTO: SYD­NEY SESHIBEDI / GALLO IM­AGES

BET­TER LUCK NEXT TIME Cos­mos play­ers are de­jected af­ter los­ing their match against Mar­itzburg United yes­ter­day

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