Li­doda Du­vha miss the mark

Leopards strug­gle in bat­tle for PSL spot against Stellenbosch

CityPress - - Sport - MAXWELL RAMARU at Thohoyandou Sta­dium sports@city­press.co.za

Black Leopards wasted a great chance to in­crease their chances of win­ning the Na­tional First Divi­sion (NFD) rel­e­ga­tion/ pro­mo­tion play­offs yes­ter­day. They only man­aged a goal­less draw against Stellenbosch FC in their open­ing match at Thohoyandou Sta­dium yes­ter­day. A win would have taken Li­doda Du­vha to the top of the group and given them an ad­van­tage over Stellenbosch and Baroka FC, who played to a draw on Wed­nes­day.

Yes­ter­day’s re­sult in Lim­popo means the three teams are tied on a sin­gle point.

Al­though the vo­cal home crowd that packed the venue in­tim­i­dated the op­po­si­tion, the Leopards play­ers seemed to have left their scor­ing boots at home as they wasted an avalanche of clear-cut scor­ing chances, es­pe­cially in the first half. Striker Mwape Mu­sonda was the main cul­prit.

The Venda side cruised in the hot weather, while the West­ern Cape side strug­gled to cope with the con­di­tions, which forced them to de­fend deep in their own half and re­sort to counter-at­tack­ing foot­ball.

Stellenbosch fin­ished the game with 10 men af­ter de­fender Diego Brown was shown a red card two min­utes from full time.

Hav­ing dropped two valu­able points at home when they drew 2-2 with Baroka in their open­ing match, Stellenbosch were also des­per­ate for a win.

The three clubs are fight­ing for the re­main­ing va­cant spot in the PSL and aim to join NFD cham­pi­ons Thanda Royal Zulu, who won au­to­matic pro­mo­tion.

Leopards fin­ished the NFD sea­son in sec­ond spot – 12 points be­hind Thanda – while Stellenbosch fin­ished third to book the last play-off spot to­gether with Baroka, who fin­ished 15th in the Absa Premier­ship.

This is the third time Leopards are in­volved in play­offs. They lost their first play-off bat­tle at the end of the 2007/08 sea­son, when they were rel­e­gated from the PSL af­ter they lost to Bay United at the semi­fi­nal stage be­fore the cur­rent mini league for­mat was in­tro­duced in 2012.

Li­doda Du­vha had an­other chance to gain pro­mo­tion via the stress­ful elim­i­na­tion con­test for­mat in 2015, but were un­lucky to lose on goal dif­fer­ence to Jomo Cos­mos.

Leopards will now face Baroka in their next fix­ture at Polok­wane’s Peter Mok­aba Sta­dium on Wed­nes­day evening. Kick­off is at 7.30pm.

Baroka will also need to pull up their socks if they are to re­tain their top-flight sta­tus.

Only three PSL teams since the in­cep­tion of the play­offs in the 2004/05 sea­son have man­aged to win the round robin com­pe­ti­tion – AmaZulu, Mpumalanga Black Aces and Polok­wane City.

PHOTO: SYD­NEY MAHLANGU / BACKPAGEPIX

STALE­MATE Phathut­shedzo Nange of Black Leopards is chal­lenged by Stellenbosch FC’s Sibu­siso Hadebe (right) dur­ing yes­ter­day’s pro­mo­tion play­offs at Thohoyandou Sta­dium

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