THOHOYANDOU – A hattrick from Black Leopards' Zambian marksman Mwape Musonda at the Thohoyandou Stadium on Sunday afternoon, saw the hosts coming from two goals down to beat Chippa United 3-2 in a pulsating league encounter.
The Port Elizabeth side had looked good for most of the opening half and were 2-0 up after goals from Thabo Rakhale and Lerato Manzini. But Musonda gave the packed house hope when he scored seconds before the interval, before netting the equaliser in the 57th minute and the winner in the 61st minute as Chippa seemed to wilt in the heat of Thohoyandou.
After a lively start to the match in which both teams had chances, the Chilli Boys drew first blood on 25 minutes when Andile Mbeyane threaded Rakhale in on goal, the former Orlando Pirates winger showing good pace and a nice composed chip to give his side the early advantage.
The hosts responded well and created opportunities to get back in the game, but Musonda fired a close-range shot into the stands before Lifa Hlongwane had a free kick saved and then Phathutshedzo Nange headed a corner kick over the bar from just a few metres out.
Leopards' haste to find an equaliser meant, however, that they were left exposed at the back and Rakhale capitalised via a quick counter-attack as he beat two defenders and then pulled the ball back for an easy finish for Manzini in the 40th minute.
With the partisan Lidoda Duvha fans desperate for their team to get back into the game, the hosts had little choice but to throw caution to the wind and they had their reward deep in first-half added time when Musonda pounced on a loose ball in the box and fired in a clinical half volley from seven yards out.
Chippa needed to find a way to quell Leopards' momentum, and they seemed to have achieved that when they were awarded a penalty a minute into the second stanza after Manzini was fouled in the box. Ruzaigh Gamildien was handed the responsibility, but his spot-kick lacked conviction and home keeper King Ndlovu made an excellent diving save.
Their tails up after having avoided going 3-1 down, Leopards came out firing and they were back on level terms in the 57th minute when Musonda slotted home after an assist from substitute Joseph Mhlongo.
Just four minutes later, the Limpopo team were ahead for the first time – when who else but the league's top scorer Musonda - was left unmarked at the back post, where he powered a header into the roof of the net following Marks Munyai's free kick.
The visitors had one or two openings to snatch something from the game, but an equaliser never really looked on the cards for them as Lidoda Duvha managed the closing stages of the game effectively to hold out for what could be a crucial win.
The result leaves the Chilli Boys second from bottom, while Leopards move five points clear of the drop zone.
African News Agency (ANA)