Mwape Musonda netted two first-half goals to hand Black Leopards a potential ticket back to the top flight, as they beat Stellenbosch FC 3-1 at the Athlone Stadium on Wednesday.
Mumuni Abubaker got the other goal in Leopards’ first victory in the Premier Soccer League’s post-season promotion-relegation play-off games.
But a bizarre goal for the vanquished Cape club, which was already eliminated from the race, means Leopards must still beat Baroka by two goals in the last of the six-match programme in Thohoyandou on Saturday to return to the top flight for the first time since 2013.
Leopards were full value for a two-goal lead at half-time and looking to extend their lead after the break and improve their goal difference, when Petrus Shitembi pulled one back for Stellenbosch in the 65th minute.
Leopards had sportingly kicked the ball out into touch to allow for treatment for Stellenbosch midfielder Tauriq Dien, who was struggling with cramps. As protocol dictates, Stellenbosch kicked the ball back to Leopards with a long hoof up field by Shitembi, but Leopards’ goalkeeper Rotshidzwa Muleka slipped and the ball bounced over him into the net. It was a horror error that could yet stymie their promotion hopes.
It took almost 40 minutes for Lidoda Duvha to break the deadlock when Abubaker’s thunderous shot was parried by home keeper Edward More only for Musonda to sweep through and pocket the rebound.
In stoppage time, at the end of the first half, the Zambian striker doubled the tally after an error at the back, with a simple tap after skipper Siphelele Ntshangase had won possession.
Abubaker’s header in the 69th minute from a corner re-established the two goal lead, while complaining off the bench saw Jason Skippers, who had gone off at half-time, handed a red card for verbal abuse.
Leopards now have four points, three behind Baroka who sit at the top of the table.
Leopards’ goal difference is plus one, while Baroka are on plus three.