Johannesburg – Coming off a shock win over Premier League leaders Mamelodi Sundowns in mid-week, Black Aces lost their momentum and slumped to a 2-1 defeat against a battling Polokwane City at the old Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Sunday afternoon.
In the process, City eased their relegation problems with three invaluable points and leap-frogged Aces into 11th position in the Premier League log.
On a hot, sultry afternoon during which the referee ordered a mid-half break, the heat was on both the PSL's promoted teams to demonstrate they have the experience and expertise to remain in the top division.
It was Aces who enjoyed a clear territorial advantage, but ironically City were more potent on their rare counter-attacks and actually produced more shots at goal than their opponents.
And seemingly hugely responsible for easing City out of the tentacles of the relegation zone is canny coach Boebie Solomons, whose arrival at the club has coincided with an impressive revival after a torrid start to the season.
Like Aces, the improving and increasingly more stable City have also secured a victory over Sundowns under Solomons and they demonstrated the same kind of grit that has earned them three recent victories against Aces as well.
After a shaky, nervy start in which it looked as though they would not survive the opening half without conceding a goal, City caught the Aces defence out-of-position in the 43rd minute, with Puleng Tlolane initiating the game's opening goal for a grateful, opportunist Essau Kanyende.
Aces were on level terms eight minutes after the interval when former Orlando Pirates forager Onyekachi Okonkwo burst through the City defence and placed a precise lob into the net over the head of out-of-position goalkeeper Modiro Marumo.
It was Tlolane again who proved the instigator of a City goal when he made the opening for Thobane Mncwango to regain the lead for the Polokwane team in the 78th minute.
Aces made a concerted bid in the final 10 minutes to salvage something from the game and Marumo in City's goal was forced to make a stunning save in the 88th minute to make amends for his walkabout earlier when Aces equalised.
“This was not one of our better performances,” said Solomons afterwards.
“We know we have to take points from our home games to fulfil the aim of remaining in the Premier League and we won't be surrendering points easily in Polokwane to anyone.”
Aces coach Clive Barker felt his team deserved “at least a point” from what was a tough, engrossing encounter. – Sapa