Leopard tame ‘Sea Robbers’
SOCCER – Royal Leopard produced a composed performance at the Mavuso Sports Centre yesterday to beat Moneni Pirates 2-1. It was a game played under immense heat, and no wonder it started at a mild pace with both teams struggling to cope with the high temperatures.
It was no surprise that the first chance of the game came after 22 minutes of play, in which there were no clear-cut scoring chances. A cross from the right by Pirates’ Akhona Sibandze was wastefully headed over the bar by the overlapping Thabo Vilakati. At this stage, Leopard were nowhere near efficient as they rushed their shots from the edge of the box, hitting static Pirates defenders on most occasions.
Exactly after 35 minutes, the referee blew his whistle to order the teams out for a much-needed water break, as temperatures soared above 33 degrees Celsius at the Mavuso Sports Centre.
It was as if Pirates’ coach Tarisayi Changara knew danger was coming as he remonstrated with his team’s goal-keeper, Siyabonga Zwane, telling him to focus when the game was restarted.
It took Leopard only seven minutes to score. An over hit cross from the left was headed back into the area by Menzi Dlamini, with veteran striker Barry Steenkamp letting the ball float through towards the waiting feet of gifted midfielder, Fanelo Tsabedze.
He rifled a left foot shot past Zwane for the opening goal.
Little time was left before half-time, and it was apparent that Leopard were to take the lead into the tunnels. They duly complied.
At the restart, Leopard appeared to have been spurred by the goal they scored towards the end of the first half as they reached for Pirates’ half with ease.
Sensing more trouble, Pirates coach Terisayi Changara made a change in the 50th minute, bringing on
Bonkhe Myeza f or
Akhona Sibandze . Unfortunately for him, barely a minute after that change a confusion between the goal-keeper and defender Thabo Vil a kat i , led to Leopard’s Sifiso Matse scoring what could be the easiest goal of his life. It was the simplest of tap-ins after the two Pirates had players collided leaving the goal at the mercy of the attacker.
It was difficult to see how Pirates would come back into the game after this goal as their opponents camped in their half for prolonged periods.
The ‘ Buccaneers’ did, however, come close to scoring in the 70th minute when a rasping shot by Zombodze Dlamini was spectacularly tipped over the bar by Leopard’s Phephisani Msibi. He was being called into action for the very first time in the game, which underlined how poor Pirates were in attack all afternoon, really. A penalty awarded by the referee in the 75th minute, after Phephisani upended substitute Muzi Vilakati inside the box gave them a lifeline, and they started to attack with purpose after Menzi ‘ Magawugawu’ S im e l a n e converted. Howeve r , Leopard held for an i mportant victory that gave them a snap view of the top of the standings. Pirates must work on their attack after t his display.
Royal Leopard head coach Edwin Matsebula.