Leopards win five-goal thriller, but remain bottom

Black Leopards defeated Maritzburg United 3-2 in an entertaining Absa Premiership match at FNB Stadium on Sunday afternoon, though the Limpopo side remains bottom of the log as they continue to fight against the threat of relegation.

Lidoda Duvha threw away a two-goal lead, but ultimately claimed the three points thanks to a second-half goal from youngster Tiklas Thutlwa. The result sees them remain in 16th place, though they now only trail second-from-bottom Polokwane City on goal difference, with the teams both on 23 points. Just above them sit Baroka (13th) and AmaZulu (14th), both on 24 points.

The Team of Choice, meanwhile, missed out on the chance to go level on points with Orlando Pirates in third, and instead remained in sixth spot.

Leopards looked the livelier side in the early stages and almost claimed the lead on the quarter-hour mark, with a corner kick flicked on by Thutlwa and then headed powerfully onto the crossbar by Edwin Gyimah.

On the 20 minute mark the hosts hit the front. Khuliso Mudau provided a cross from the right flank which was fumbled by United goalkeeper Richard Ofori, allowing Mwape Musonda an easy finish from close range to put his team 1-0 up.

Ten minutes later Lidoda Duvha doubled their advantage, with Lifa Hlongwane stroking a loose ball into an unguarded net from the ‘D’ of the box after Ofori had come off his line to deny Musonda in a one-on-one situation.

Maritzburg pulled a goal back in the 34th minute through a beautiful strike from Keagan Buchanan. The midfielder curled a shot direct from a free kick over the wall and beyond the right hand of Leopards goalkeeper King Ndlovu to make it 2-1.

And another set piece saw the Team of the Choice level the game at 2-2 just a minute before the end of regulation time in the first half. A corner was played to Mxolisi Kunene on the left of the penalty area and the wingback proceeded to fire a stinging left-footed drive into the back of the net via the underside of the crossbar.

Leopards reclaimed the ascendancy six minutes into the second half, with debutant Thutlwa meeting a corner kick at the near post and heading beyond the reach of Ofori to make it 3-2 – though there was some controversy, as the corner never should have been awarded in the first place.

The home side was able to see out the remainder of the game in relative comfort, with ‘keeper Ndlovu not called upon to make any significant saves by a Maritzburg outfit which lacked their usual penetration in attack.

The teams will return to Absa Premiership action on Friday 21 August, with Leopards away to Golden Arrows at Ellis Park and Maritzburg at home to Mamelodi Sundowns at Lucas Moripe Stadium.

Black Leopards (2) 3 (Musonda 20’, Hlongwane 30’, Thutlwa 51’)

Maritzburg United (2) 2 (Buchanan 34’, Kunene 44’)

Leopards: K. Ndlovu, Mudau, Gyimah, Masia, Zulu, Thutlwa (X. Ndlovu 85’), Abubakar, Makgetlwa (Mokoena 85’), Khutlang (Matlaba 61’), Hlongwane (Andrianarimanana 78’), Musonda

Maritzburg: Ofori, Allie, Mngonyama (Sanoka 82’), De Reuck, Kunene (Shandu 62’), Claasen, Buchanan, Tlolane, Timm (Ntshangase 56’), Hlongwane (Moseamedi 56’), Kutumela (Augusto 82’)