Royal claim thrilling win over Polokwane

Royal AM claimed a thrilling 3-2 win over Polokwane City in a DStv Premiership match played at a cold and wet Harry Gwala Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

All the action occurred in the second half, with Thwihli Thwahla opening the scoring, then going 2-1 down, before finally securing all three points in injury time with a winner from unlikely hero Zukile Mkhize.

The result sees Royal rise to 13th place on the log, now just two points short of the top half of the table. In fact, they are level on points with Polokwane, who are placed 11th thanks to a superior goal difference.

The teams took their time to settle in on the slick pitch, with Royal offering a first genuine threat in the 18th minute when Maxwele Ayabulela tried his luck with a long-range effort after spotting Polokwane’s Manuel Sapunga off his line, but the goalkeeper recovered well to make the save.

The visitors came close to breaking the deadlock just after the half-hour mark when Douglas Mapfumo let fly from close range, but his effort flashed just wide of the target and had Royal goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto scrambling.

Those were the only two notable attacking highlights through a goalless first half, as both sides struggled to find a passing rhythm and build any kind of consistent pressure in the opponent’s territory.

Rise and Shine had the first chance of the second half, with a 53rd minute corner kick finding Lebohang Nkaki, who was unable to make the most of the opportunity and saw his effort blocked in a crowded penalty area.

Thwihli Thwahla then claimed the lead on 61 minutes via a brilliant solo effort from Sedwyn George, who controlled an awkward ball, left two defenders in his wake and beat Sapunga with a stabbed effort to make it 1-0.

Polokwane responded in the minutes after the goal by sending on Stevens Goovadia, Ndamulelo Maphangule and Sibusiso Tshabalala as substitutes, and their increased intensity brought an equaliser from Mapfumo, who steered home a low shot from a pass by Oswin Appollis in the 74th minute.

And three minutes later the team from Limpopo claimed the lead for the first time, scoring past Mpoto again as the home team’s defence once again failed to cope with the pressure put on them.

Royal sent on the cavalry with about 10 minutes of regulation time to play, with Shadrack Kobedi, Kethukuthula Ndlovu and Motebang Sera rising off the bench, and they were able to force an equaliser on 87 minutes.

Polokwane were unable to clear their lines from a free kick delivered into the box and Sikhethele Mabuza cracked home the loose ball to make it 2-2.

Further drama followed in the second minute of injury time, as Thwihli Thwahla secured a 3-2 win when Kabelo Mahlasela teed up Zukile Mkhize to steer home a low effort from the middle of the penalty area and send the home fans into delirium.

The teams will return to the DStv Premiership later this month, with Royal away to Golden Arrows on April 20 and Polokwane hosting Cape Town City the following day.

Royal AM (0) 3 (George 61’, Mabuza 87’)

Polokwane City (0) 2 (Mapfumo 74’ 77’)

Royal: Mpoto, Mkhize, Mabuza, Jiyane, Matlaba, Msomi (Sera 81’), Mahlasela, Magaqa (Kobedi 81’), Ayabulela, Mashiane (Ndlovu 81’), George (Lingwati 90+5’)

Polokwane: Sapunga, Matuludi, Mikani, Nkaki, Ndlovu, Kambala, Mashikinya (Maphangule 65’), Mabena (Tshabalala 65’), Ramabu (Goovadia 70’), Appollis, Mapfumo