Thanda ease relegation fears
Mpumalanga - Thanda Royal Zulu FC secured a key victory that could go a long way to securing their Premiership status for next season when they beat Bay United 1-0 at the Mpumalanga Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Amabhubesi are certainly not out of the woods, and their supporters would be foolish to think as such, but winning this ‘six-pointer’ on a day in which Bloemfontein Celtic fell to a defeat at the hands of AmaZulu has seen them open up a gap of five points to the bottom two.
For Bay, however, it is a cruel blow to their hopes of clawing their way off bottom spot, and having played 24 games – more than any other in the PSL – they are looking the team most likely to suffer automatic relegation.
Thanda’s Nkosinathi Nhleko had an effort on goal as early as the fourth minute, but his shot from 12 yards was well blocked by Bay captain Duran Francis. Four minutes later Asanda Mvalo had Umlilo’s first effort on target for the afternoon, but Aubrey Mathibe came to the hosts’ rescue with an excellent save, tipping the ball over the crossbar.
On 13 minutes Amabhubesi came within inches of opening the scoring, as Nhleko’s powerful drive beat Arthur Bartman in the visitors’ goal, but not the woodwork, as the ball crashed back off the crossbar and away to safety.
Mathibe again proved his worth to Thanda in the 19th minute when he pulled off a fantastic save to deny Zamuxolo Ngalo, and his side should have taken full advantage of his heroics and scored themselves in the 23rd, but Clement Mazibuko couldn’t keep his header down after getting on the end of Bongani Mbhele’s cross.
The sides continued to trade scoring chances in an end-to-end game until first half injury time when Nhleko’s pass set Mbhele up with a scoring chance that the youngster did well to convert from 12 yards out, 1-0.
The second half saw less scoring opportunities for the respective teams, but Mbhele missed out on a good chance in the 59th minute, shooting over from close range when he had the chance to put daylight between the two sides.
Phil Evans almost doubled the lead with a well-struck free kick on 62 minutes, but Bartman tipped the ball round the post to keep his side in the hunt. With just ten minutes to go, Bay almost drew level with a shot from George Ngangqu but Mathibe again made an important save.
The result sees Thanda stay in 13th place but move up to 26 points. Bay remain rooted to the bottom of the table on 20 points.