Supersport clinch top eight spotComment on this story
A brace from Thuso Phala helped SuperSport United secure a top-eight finish with a thrilling 4-2 victory over Polokwane City in the teams' last game of the Premiership season.
Needing a win and three points from their last outing to secure a top-eight finish to the season, United did what was needed as Phala led the attack while Thabiso Nkoana and Bennett Chenene steered the hosts to a vital win on the last day of the league campaign.
Having not finished outside of the top eight for 13 successive seasons since 2000, United were under pressure to keep their top-half record intact, particularly under coach Cavin Johnson, in his first season with the Pretoria club.
A win for SuperSport, coupled with a positive result for Free State Stars against Moroka Swallows in a simultaneous fixture, was enough to seal the fate of City, who now have to play in a promotion/relegation playoff if they are to remain in the country's top tier.
The visitors showed their intentions early on and had a couple of snapshots from Puleng Tlolane and Esau Kanyenda test goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, before Tlolane found himself in acres of space, but headed wide the game's best moment after 13 minutes.
Under severe pressure from City, United had to change their approach and soon had their first chance, from a free-kick just outside the area, but wasted the opportunity as Sibusiso Khumalo blasted his effort high of the target.
Despite City's dominance, the visitors failed to capitalise and saw plenty of opportunities fall by the wayside, which allowed SuperSport to regain focus and soon went ahead.
A quickly taken free-kick from gave Khumalo time and space to centre a ball for Phala in the area, as the winger stabbed home from dead in front to hand Matsatsantsa the lead seven minutes before the break.
Ahead at the interval, SuperSport seemed to go to sleep in defence shortly after the resumption and conceded the equaliser just five minutes after the break, as Thabo Rakhale netted a vital goal for the Polokwane outfit.
A lapse in defence allowed City to steal the ball on the edge of the area, rounded Williams in goal and squeezed home the leveller, beating two retreating defenders on the line in the process.
City once again looked like the only team on the pitch and should have gone ahead in the 64th minute but squandered their chance when Tlolane missed from close range after some good work from Kanyenda.
But United showed their resolve and re-took the lead four minutes later, as Nkoana's darting run at the heart of the City defence opened up a space and allowed the attacker to sneak his shot under goalkeeper Modiri Marumo.
The Pretoria side were far from finished and added a third shortly after to drive home their advantage as Chenene bagged his sixth league goal of the campaign, following some solid build-up play, which left the City back four in tatters.
City were handed a vital chance from the spot 10 minutes from the end as referee Victor Gomes awarded a penalty for a foul from Brandon Dean.
Vukile Mngqibisa stepped up and coolly converted to pull the visitors back to within one of SuperSport, who had to hold on for a nervy final eight minutes.
Their celebrations were cut short five minutes later as United restored their two-goal cushion, courtesy of Phala's second of the day, which he scored in emphatic fashion from the right to give SuperSport breathing space once more. - Sapa