Leopards relegated after Goble Park defeat

Black Leopards were condemned to direct relegation from the Absa Premiership after they were beaten 3-2 by Free State Stars at Goble Park on Saturday afternoon.

Bottom-placed Lidoda Duvha came into the match needing a victory to give themselves any hope of at least moving up to the playoff spot and an early goal from Mongezi Bobe was exactly what the doctor ordered.

However, Ea Lla Koto came up with three in reply to claim a deserved victory and ensure that the Limpopo visitors finished bottom of the log and will play their football in the National First Division next season.

Leopards had the first shot in anger as early as the second minute of the match, with Mongezi Bobe putting an effort direct from a free kick wide of goal from about 20 metres out.

The attacking midfielder found the back of the net in the seventh minute to put Leopards 1-0 up and give them a glimmer of hope of avoiding direct relegation. A pull-back from the right by-line found Bobe, who steered a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.

On 16 minutes Samuel Mabunda tried to put the visitors two goals up, but his right-footed effort from just outside the penalty area flashed wide of Mweene’s left-hand post.

Stars gradually grew into the game and began threatening past the midway point of the first half. On 25 minutes Daniel Cardoso shot off target from long range, a short while later Coldrin Coetzee struck a free kick wide, and on 32 minutes the dangerous Dove Wome saw a 20-yard effort rebound off the crossbar.

Ea Lla Koto then earned a penalty in the 38th minute, as Ernot Dzaga was perhaps harshly adjudged to have pushed Wome in the 18-yard area. Mweene converted from the spot to bring the home side level and deal Leopards’ survival hopes a massive blow.

And things got even worse for the Limpopo team just before the hour mark when Wome latched onto a pass from the right by Anver Esterhuizen and finished from close range to make it 2-1 to Free State Stars.

Ten minutes later Wome missed a great chance to extend his side’s lead, but the score was soon pushed to 3-1 anyway, with Anver Esterhuizen heading home from a corner kick in the 72nd minute to effectively end the game as a contest.

Leopards were able to pull a goal back in the 89th minute when David Zulu converted Bobe’s cross from the right flank, but it was too little, too late and proved nothing more than a consolation strike.

Free State Stars (1) 3 (Mweene 39’ pen, Wome 59’, Esterhuizen 72’)

Black Leopards (1) 2 (Bobe 7’, Zulu 89’)

Stars: Mweene, Sambu, Coetzee (Chivuta 67’), Ouro-Akoriko, Cardoso, Esterhuizen, Wiltwer, Masehe, Mashego (Mthethwa 87’), Wome, Mvula (Mkhatshwa 62’)

Leopards: Maphaha, Dzaga, Nyirenda, Khoza, Xakane (Ntshingila 49’), Bobe, Monama, Tshepe (Maake 68’), Mabunda, Zulu, Ramagalela