Royal beat Galaxy, strengthen grip on second place

Royal AM have strengthened their grip on second place on the DStv Premiership log after they claimed a 4-1 away win over TS Galaxy at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Goals from Victor Letsoalo (two), Ndumiso Mabena and Mfundo Thikazi secured the victory for Thwihli Thwahla, who moved to 40 points from 23 matches and opened a five-point advantage over Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in the race for the runners-up spot behind Mamelodi Sundowns.

The Rockets, meanwhile, have gone five league matches without a win and remain in 15th place (the relegation playoff spot) after taking just 18 points from 23 matches. They could sink to bottom spot if Baroka FC claim a win against Cape Town City on Sunday.

Galaxy started strongly and created an early chance for Lindokuhle Mbatha, though the veteran winger was unable to convert with his shot from just inside the penalty area.

Royal then began to assert control once they established a passing rhythm, and their first clear chance arrived in the 18th minute when Thabo Matlaba’s cross picked out Mxolisi Machupu, who struck an effort on target but was denied by a fine save from goalkeeper Melusi Buthelezi.

Yet Thwihli Thwahla did not have to wait long to take full control of the match, with the prolific Victor Letsoalo scoring either side of the half-hour mark for a quick-fire brace.

His first was set up by wingback Zukhile Mkhize, who provided a teasing cross from the striker to head home in the 26th minute.

Letsoalo then netted again on 31 minutes, finishing off a breakaway move with a shot beyond Buthelezi to make it 2-0 and assert dominance for the visitors from KwaZulu-Natal.

However, the Rockets were given a lifeline just before the halftime interval when striker Augustine Kwem was tripped in the 18-yard area by Samuel Manganyi, earning a penalty. The Nigerian successfully converted from the spot kick to leave the game at 2-1 in favour of Royal at the break.

The second half saw the teams wrestle for ascendancy through the quarter hour after the restart, with Galaxy hoping that the likes of Aphele Teto and Lifa Hlongwane, who were introduced off the bench, could make a difference.

However, it was a Royal substitute who effectively settled the game just a few minutes after the hour mark, as Ndumiso Mabena beat goalkeeper Buthelezi with a shot direct from a free kick to make it 3-1.

Galaxy looked for a path back into the clash, with a couple of defence efforts from Menzi Ndwandwe and Mbatha, but Thwihli Thwahla aded to their advantage late on when Sedwyn George set up fellow substitute Mfundo Thikazi to add a fourth goal.

The teams will return to DStv Premiership action in the coming midweek, with Galaxy away to Kaizer Chiefs and Royal at home to Marumo Gallants.

TS GALAXY (1) 1 (Kwem 45’ pen)

ROYAL AM (2) 4 (Letsoalo 26’ 31’, Mabena 63’, Thikazi 90+2’)