Jomo Cosmos were left with a mountain to climb in their quest for a play-off spot after being held to a 1-1 draw by NFD pace setters Thanda Royal Zulu at Tsakane Stadium last Sunday.
Captain Frederic Nsabiyumva scored his second goal of the league campaign to give Ezenkosi a 1-0 cushion at the break. But Amabhubesi rallied back through Thabiso Nkoana to steal a point and put their championship hopes back on track.
None of the teams enjoyed clear cut domination in the keen contest that had spectators at the edge of their seats for most part of the encounter.
Ezenkosi created several anxious moments in the visitors half particularly in the opening half as the five-man midfield of Denzil Haoseb, Tebogo Makobela, Linda “Figo” Mntambo, Tebogo “Messi” Tlolane and Matsilele Sono Junior ran rings around their opponents but couldn’t put the ball away.
However, the deadlock was finally broken on the half hour mark when Nsabiyumva jabbed home a rebound from Matsilele Sono’s well-swung corner kick.
Just before half time, Linda Mntambo should have extended the lead but his angled shot from the edge of the box was punched into touch by goalkeeper Xolani Ngcobo.
Thanda came into the second half with intent to get something out of the game, and this was apparent from their direct attacking approach in the opening minutes.
The sustained pressure on Ezenkosi’s defence finally paid off when Nsabiyumva upended a goal-bound Jabulani Ncobeni in the box, and referee Naasif Julius had no hesitation pointing to the penalty spot.
However, Cosmos safe hands Davies Modiba pushed Boitanyo Komane’s kick back into play, but the euphoria had hardly died down when Thanda seized the initiative as Ezenkosi’s defence failed to clear their lines, giving Nkoana the opportunity to fire a low shot into the net. 1-1.
Midway through the second half, Macuphu had a golden chance to put Cosmos back in the lead after getting a good pass from Makobela, but the striker fired wide off target.
The result extended Thanda’s lead to nine points at the top of the log, while Cosmos slipped down to 9th, with a game in hand.
Ezenkosi next take on struggling Magesi FC in Polokwane next Wednesday.
MATCH STATS, LINE-UPS
COSMOS (4-5-1): Davies Modiba – Thato Lingwati, Frederic Nsabiyumva (Captain), Ange Lebahi, Shane Thompson – Linda Mntambo (Wiseman Maluleke 85’), Denzil Haoseb, Tebogo Makobela, Matsilele Sono Junior (Ananias Gebhardt 71’), Tebogo Tlolane – Mxolisi Macuphu (Lefa Hlongwane 71’)
SUBS NOT USED: Clement Ramakgasha, Njabulo Qwabe, Kahnyisani Sithole, Sipho Mngomezulu.
COACH: Jomo Sono
THANDA (4-4-2): Xolani Ngcobo – Misho Mtebule (Velile Zitha 46’), Ayabulela Konqobe, Innocent Maela (Captain), Zitha Macheke – Mphakamieni Nene (Sibuduzo Dlamini 70’) , Boikanyo Komane, Thabiso Nkoana, Khotso Malope – Philani Cele (Michael Gumede 46’), Jabulani Ncobeni
SUBS NOT USED: Siyabonga Mbatha, Evender Spandeel, Sonke Ntuli, Kudutu Maleasenya
COACH: Roger Sikakhane
BOOKED: Mtebule, Makobela, Maela