Gutsy AmaZayoni stay in the PSL

A 2-1 win on Wednesday afternoon for Aces at the Ackerville Stadium in Witbank left the aggregate score tied at 3-3.

The match then went into penalties, which saw Chad Harpur saving from Patrick Mtawali before Mpho Maleka held his nerve to ensure Aces won the shoot-out 5-3.

The start of what turned out to be an absolute thriller was delayed for 45 minutes by rain and a water-logged pitch.

For the most part it was Aces who enjoyed the upper-hand in attack during the first half, but they could not take their chances.

This proved costly as Leopards scored in the 11th minute with one of their relatively few opportunities, Kethowakhe Masuku striking with a stunning long range drive, the ball dipping into the bottom right corner from nearly 30-yards out.

That brought the aggregate score to 3-1 in favour Lidoda Duhva, following their 2-1 win last Saturday.

Aces pushed hard for an equaliser, especially around the half hour mark, but Clifford Mulenga (later to become the two-goal-hero) scuffed a shot from a tight angle after bursting through on goal, while Maleka was very unlucky when his glancing header landed just the wrong side of the upright.

Leopards defender Mayasisilua Lubanzadio then came close to adding a second with a 42nd minute header, while Mulenga almost scored just before the break for Aces when his cross landed on the bar. After the restart it was again Aces who put pressure on the Limpopo side.

Madoda Motha blazed over a 53rd minute effort, although with the home side pushing forward, gaps opened at the back and the visitors could have added a goal if Walter Ramulondi had done better with his 61st minute header.

But a minute later it was game on as AmaZayoni were rewarded for their efforts when a neat bit of skill from Lindokhule Mbatha set up Mulenga, who also showed superb ability to beat two men before rifling in a brilliant shot into the top left hand corner.

Aces were down to 10 men after 65 minutes when Vusi Masonda was red-carded, but this didn’t stop them from attacking.

Indeed, the final 20 minutes of regulation time soon turned into what must rate as the most exciting passage of play in any game this season as the game assumed the excitement and drama a cup final.

There were goal-mouth scrambles, a turned down penalty appeal for Aces, and a delightful piece of skill which saw Mulenga squeeze the ball across the goal-mouth.

With nine minutes of regulation time left, Mulenga finally did the trick for the Witbank side, showing wonderful composure in a match with such high stakes to round keeper Ayanda Mtshali and slot the ball home.

There were chances at both ends in the closing stages of the game, but no further goals, sending the game into penalties, where Aces converted all five of their kicks, while Leopards scored with their first three before Harpur stopped Mtawali’s effort.