Abubakar Mumuni of Black Leopards (left) clears from Jamie Webber of Stellenbosch FC at Athlone Stadium on Wednesday. Photo: Chris Ricco, BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – The two Limpopo clubs – Black Leopards and Baroka FC – will battle it out for a place in the PSL next season after Leopards defeated Stellenbosch FC 3-1 in a promotion playoff match at the Athlone Stadium on Wednesday night.

As it stands, with just the one game remaining, Baroka have seven points, Leopards four and Stellenbosch two points.

Leopards host Baroka in the deciding match at the Thohoyandou Stadium on Saturday afternoon, and a draw will be enough for Baroka to seal a top-flight place, while Leopards will have to win with a two-goal margin to ensure promotion on goal difference.

At Athlone on Wednesday night, with Stellenbosch out of the running, they made a raft of changes to the starting team.

And, with there being no pressure on the Cape Winelands team, they got off to a promising start, with Leopards especially struggling to get going in the slippery conditions.

But Stellenbosch failed to capitalise on their good start and, as the game progressed, Leopards gradually settled and started to play with a lot more fluidity.

It was particularly a strike from Phathutshedzo Nange in the 21st minute that sparked things. His effort was hit straight at Stellenbosch goalkeeper Edward More, but it was the cue for Leopards that, with a bit of finesse, they could find their way beyond the opposition’s defence.

Mumuni Abubakar of Black Leopards scores against Stellenbosch. Photo: Chris Ricco, BackpagePix

Leopards captain Siphelele Ntshangase had finally managed to grab hold of the midfield and he was running things with aplomb. Nange was again to the fore when his powerful attempt just shaved the crossbar.

Ntshangase then set up Lebogang Mabotja, but he skied the ball over.

Something had to give, and Leopards’ dominance paid off in the 39th minute when Mumuni Abubakar’s thunderous shot was parried by More, but Mwape Musonda reacted quickest to steer in the loose ball.

Minutes later, just before halftime, a horrendous error from Stellenbosch right back Matthew Rowell allowed Musonda a clear run on goal, and the striker made no mistake to give Leopards a 2-0 lead.

Stellenbosch brought on Senegalese striker Mame Niang at the start of the second half, a clear indication of their desire to be more attacking. And they nearly scored minutes into the second period when Rowell’s header was well saved by Leopards goalkeeper Rotshidzwa Muleka.

The match then experienced a rather bizarre moment. Leopards sportingly kicked the ball out of play to allow an injured Stellenbosch player to receive some attention.

Mwape Musonda of Black Leopards (pink jersey) scores past Stellenbosch goalkeeper Edward More. Photo: Chris Ricco, BackpagePix

When the game restarted, Stellenbosch hoofed the ball upfield to allow Leopards to have possession again, but the bounce bamboozled Muleka and it sailed over his head and into the net.

The referee had no choice but to award the goal, making it 2-1 to Leopards.

And, considering that promotion could well come down to goal difference, it was real bad luck for the Limpopo side to concede in such unfortunate circumstances.

Leopards, though, restored their two-goal advantage when Abubakar headed in from a corner. At 3-1, things were looking a lot better for Leopards – they kept pressing in search of another goal, to make their goal target a bit easier on Saturday, but it was not to be.

For Leopards to get to the PSL, it’s now not just about beating Baroka, but also about the margin of victory in order to boost their goal difference.

Independent Media