Baroka FC will continue to play their football in the top-flight next season after playing to a 1-1 draw with Black Leopards in the final PSL promotion playoff match at the Thohoyandou Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
In order to pip Baroka for the final spot, Leopards went into the match knowing that they would need to win by a three goal margin in order to claim top league status.
Any hopes that the hosts had of reaching their goal suffered a major setback when their goalkeeper Rotshidzwa Muleka failed to punch clear a cross from the right, and the ball fell to Victor Letsoalo for the simplest of finishes from close range in the 33rd minute.
The bumpy pitch made passing extremely difficult and the outcome could have been decided in the 39th minute, but Muleka pulled off a brilliant save as he tipped a powerful goal-bound shot from Baroka midfielder Jose Garcia over the crossbar.
Leopards must have done much soul-searching during the halftime break as they started the second half with a much more attacking approach.
They were helped when Baroka goal-scorer Letsoalo was sent off, after receiving his second yellow card of the match, for a dangerous tackle on Siphelele Ntshangase.
Letsoalo has been a cornerstone of several Leopards playoff campaigns in recent years, and is one of the midfielders of the home team that looks quite capable of playing at a higher level.
In the 64th minute, Leopards received a lifeline when Matome Kgoetyane brought down Lebogang Mabotja in the penalty area, and Ntshangase scored from the spot.
Despite Leopards’ continued onslaughts on the Baroka goal, a further goal was not to be, with the Baroka defence holding firm.
Visiting team goalkeeper Avhashoni Tshinuna completed the match in pain as he nursed a leg injury, but the Leopards strikers were not able to make him move or stretch to the maximum to force the error.
Baroka, who finished 15th in the 16-team Absa Premiership, now join an elite group of clubs including Mpumalanga Black Aces, Amazulu and Polokwane City who have managed to save their top-flight status through the playoff competition.African News Agency (ANA)