Durban - A pair of penalties by second-half substitute Brent Carelse helped Chippa United avoid automatic relegation with a 2-1 victory over AmaZulu on the final day of the Absa Premiership season in Durban on Saturday.
The striker scored in the 49th and 75th minutes in a spirited performance by the visitors after they had fallen behind to an early Bongani Ndulula goal at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
The result, coupled by Ajax Cape Town beating Golden Arrows 3-0 and Black Leopards losing 3-2 to Free State Stars, meant that the Chilli Boys ended their maiden top-flight campaign in 15th place, and will go into the promotion/relegation playoffs.
AmaZulu, who ended the season in 12th, began with a bang in front of a small, but noisy home crowd, taking the lead as early as the fourth minute.
Njabulo Manqana picked up on an error on the left and darted into the box where his cross was cut out by a diving Tashriq Goldman, with Issa Sarr’s attempted clearance charged down by the boot of Ndulula to give his side the lead.
Msekeli Mvalo tried to hit back immediately, but curled his free-kick from outside the box onto the roof of the net, while another set-piece from the same player narrowly evaded the head of Benjani Mwaruwari.
Asavela Mbekile then did excellently to pull away from his marker on the right, but he drifted too wide with the eventual shot falling tamely to Tapuwa Kapini.
Key Chippa striker Welcome Qalanto was next to threaten for his side after being picked out in the box by William Twala, but again the effort, this time a downward header, was comfortable enough for Kapini to collect.
Manqana finally had Usuthu’s next opening on the half-hour mark when he picked up a pass by Ndulula on the left and fired a low shot that forced Goldman to pounce, while Thokozani Mshengu sent a rising shot over not long after.
They again had a chance five minutes from the interval when Manqana’s corner from the left needed a touch at the far post where Philani Cele failed to stick out a leg.
Carelse was sent on for the second half and he immediately made an impact by slotting a penalty down the middle of the goal after Cele hauled down Twala in the box.
AmaZulu were denied the lead again on the hour mark when Goldman raced off his line to brilliantly claw away a long ball from the feet of Mshengu, before slide-tackling clear from Andile Khumalo.
At the other end, a fine cross by replacement Mkhanyiseli Siwahla from the right only just evaded Mwaruwari and Twala, while Khumalo hacked over wastefully for the home side.
But Chippa got their big chance with 15 minutes to go as Goodman Dlamini fouled Siwahla in the box, leaving referee Buyile Gqubule little choice but to award a second spot kick, which Carelse finished to the left of Kapini.