|Eleazar Rodgers © Gallo Images
Santos began the Promotion Play-offs with a vital victory on Wednesday as Eleazar Rodgers grabbed the only goal to hand his team a 1-0 victory over Thanda Royal Zulu in Richards Bay.
The striker scored after 11 minutes and gave the Cape Town side all three points following a lively match on the Kwa-Zulu Natal north coast.
There was an energetic start to the game for both sides with the visitors venturing into the home side’s penalty area inside the opening five minutes, before Thanda did the same at the other end when Nkosinathi Mthiyane had his attempt blocked by a Santos defender.
But it was the Capetonians who went in front after a swift counter attack that led to Bheki Shabangu and Salmaan King breaking down the left, with the latter playing in Rodgers, who finished easily from six-yards out.
Thanda continued to look threatening going forward, with the dangerous King coming close via his attempt from just inside the box on the left that drifted wide, while Rodgers headed centimetres over moments later.
Midway through the half, a free kick by Omar Hendricks from the left fell nicely into the middle of the box, but Itshegetseng Lehumo shot awkwardly over, much to the frustration of the home crowd.
Santos came close again on the 35-minute mark when King’s corner was headed onto the upright by Nasief Morris at the back post.
At the other end, Thanda had their first shot on target when Edwin Sitayitayi’s cross-goal attempt was palmed away by Pa Dembo Touray, before Peter Nwadike flashed a superb effort just across the face of goal, with the visitors carrying a slender lead into the interval.
Thanda looked a lot more threatening at the start of the second half, although Lehumo and Sitayitayi both chose wrong options in dangerous positions inside the box.
Tefo Xowana and and Mthiyane both tried their luck from distance, but found the burly figure of Touray to contend with each time, the Santos goalkeeper gathering easily each time.
Amabhubesi continued to plug away, but were poor in the final third where clear openings were difficult to come by.
At the other end, substitute Shafeeq Arendse came closest to make it 2-0 when he struck powerfully from a loose ball on the right side of the box, but Thanda were again saved by the post.
Santos did have a scare with three minutes to go when Xowana’s long ball bounced awkwardly in front of Touray with Lehumo lurking, although a defender was there to blast the ball clear.
The same Thanda forward, Lehumo, then forced Touray to tip wide in additional time, but Santos held on.