JOHANNESBURG – A hostile home crowd at Thohoyandou Stadium yesterday proved too much for Platinum Stars as they were beaten 1-0 by National First Division side Black Leopards in the opening PSL promotion-relegation play-off game.
Leading up to the encounter, there had been doubt as to whether it would even go ahead, as Ajax Cape Town had spent hours leading up to kick-off filing papers with the Johannesburg High Court to interdict the start of the play-offs.
This came after the Cape outfit on Tuesday lost the Tendai Ndoro case (he was deemed ineligible to play after having represented three different clubs in a season) and been docked nine points, resulting in them being automatically relegated.
This saw Platinum Stars bumped up the standings from 16th and last to 15th place and thrust a lifeline via the play-offs.
But Ajax failed to get their interdict in time and the game went ahead in front of a full house of fired up Leopards fans, eager to see their team back in the top flight.
The hosts made most of the running in the first half as Roger De Sa’s Stars found themselves under the cosh in the Limpopo sun.
Dikwena were fortunate not to concede an early penalty when Marks Munyai appeared to have been clipped by Enocent Mkhabela in the box.
Lidoda Duhva had their breakthrough eight minutes after half-time as Joseph Mhlongo did brilliantly down the left flank before squaring the ball across goal, a clever dummy from Ivan Mahangwahaya setting up Phathutshedzo Nange for a clinical finish into the far post from 15 metres out.
Leopards goalkeeper Rotshidzwa Muleka had some work to do shortly after, doing well to tip a Gerald Phiri effort over the bar.
But despite De Sa going to a back three and throwing additional numbers forward for the final 20 minutes, Stars struggled to find any penetration against a rock-solid home defence.
They thought they had their goal in the 87th minute when Letsie Koapeng stabbed the ball into the net from a rebound. However, it was ruled out in what seemed a marginal off-side call before Bongi Ntuli had a header deflected wide of goal.
Dikwena continued to rally for an equaliser but the Venda team held firm to claim all three points.
The next play-off game is set for Sunday when the two NFD sides, Jomo Cosmos and Leopards, clash.
African News Agency (ANA)