Manning Rangers paid a heavy price for their 2-1 win over Jomo Cosmos in their Rothmans Cup semifinal, first leg showdown at a rain soaked Vosloorus on Sunday.
The victory was soured by the sending off of Rangers captain and defensive kingpin Mark Davies in the 79th minute and the booking of SA under-23 defender Nkiphitheni Matombo - his fourth, which rules him out of the second leg at Chatsworth on Wednesday.
Rangers coach Gordon Igesund was screaming blue murder at referee Achmat Salie over Davies' red card.
Davies had been booked in the first half and the referee took exception to his time wasting tactics when taking a throw-in and promptly showed the Rangers captain his second yellow card of the afternoon for a second bookable offense and the automatic red card and the three match suspension it carries.
"I hate criticising referees but this one had a nightmare out there today. I instructed Davies to give the ball to Matombo and then the ref books him. It's a joke. Davies did not have the ball in his hands for more than three seconds. This was a ridiculous sending off," complained an upset Igesund afterwards.
The drama started before the kick-off when Rangers protested against Cosmos three foreign players, Malawian Ernest Chirwali, Nuro Tualibudane and Morgan Nkathazo. Cosmos coach Jomo Sono explained: "Chirwali has SA identity documents he was issued with three years ago and we registered him with those. But I'm taking no chances and decided to pull him out of the side before the kick-off and will check his registration with the PSL today to make sure everything is in order."
Sono said Rangers had protested against Mozambique born Tualibudane and Zambian Nkathazo. "They claimed neither has work permits. Well, I would not have taken a chance if they were not in possession of proper work permits. If I cheat then I deserve to be punished, but both players are in SA legally so I have nothing to worry about."
The competition has been marred by protests. Cosmos found themselves re-instated after their protest against Free State Stars fielding suspended player Themba Seli in the last round was upheld by the PSL disciplinary committee. Stars have taken the matter to the SA Football Association appeal board and a ruling is expected on MOnday.
In Saturday's game Cosmos should have been 4-0 ahead at halftime. Instead they found themselves trailing to a well taken goal struck by Bruce Ramokadi in the 40th minute from a corner.
Tualibudane missed by a fraction in the 11th minute and then missed again in the 22nd when it looked easier to score than miss after Rangers keeper Grant Johnson fumbled the ball and the Mozambican striker had an empty net at his mercy.
Then in the 29th minute Godfrey Sapula hit the Rangers upright. And in injury time of the first half Brian Sebapole shot wide when in a good scoring position. Rangers Antonio Trigo blasted over the upright after pouncing on a bad mistake from defender Andrew Rabutla in the 43rd minute.
Rangers who were outplayed for most of the first half regrouped at halftime and stretched their lead when Keryn Jordan headed home Japhet Zwane's free kick in the 58th minute.
"I warned my players before the match to guard against set pieces but they did not listen," said Sono.
After Davies was sent off Rangers lost their shape. Cosmos gave themselves a lifeline when Rangers defender Bradley Muir turned Sebapole's cross into his own net to make it 2-1 five minutes from time.
"We're not out of it yet. We've everything still to play for and that goal could be vital. I'm happy with the way we played but not the way we missed chances.
"We should have killed the game off in the first half," said Sono.