05/17/2012 12:19 AM
Black Leopards’ relief was shortly lived as Cosmos denied them the opportunity of officially playing in the PSL next season coming back from 2-0 to make it 2-2 to the surprise of Leopards on Wednesday evening.
Ezenkosi entered their penultimate PSL encounter of the season on Wednesday evening needing nothing less than all three points to keep themselves within reach of the promotion-relegation play-offs, but not even a dramatic late fight back was enough to thwart the drop.
The match looked to be heading towards a goalless draw, but sparked into life in the 72nd minute as Mongezi Bobe slammed home a quick-fire brace, while Tshidiso Tukane's and Matthew Rusike's strikes in the final seven minutes served only as a dramatic consolation.
Bernard Loke came close to handing Cosmos a stunning start with just nine minutes gone, but his 20-yard piledriver crashed off the crossbar with goalkeeper Aziwindini Maphaha well beaten. Rusike then had a chance of his own six minutes later as he picked up the ball inside the area with the goal in his sight, but he seemed to lose his composure and fired his shot well over.
Leopards had their first real chance shortly before the break, although Luyolo Mapolisa should have done better as he put his effort from inside the area wide of the mark.
Just before the hour mark Cosmos looked to have been handed a huge favour in the race for survival as Humphrey Khoza clearly used his hand to block Tsietsi Mkhwanazi's goal bound effort, but instead of pointing to the spot and brandishing a red card, the referee waved play on with the home side left completely dumbstruck.
Soon after and Leopards rubbed salt deep into the wounds as Raymond Monama did brilliantly out wide before sending in a delicious cross which Bobe, who was celebrating his 31st birthday, duly swept home. Four minutes later and the Leopards captain gave himself a birthday present, controlling on the edge of the area before cutting in and curling his shot into the back of the net.
The thought of life outside of South Africa's top-flight league finally seemed to be dawning on the hosts, and on 83 minutes Tukane halved the deficit, tucking a loose ball home following a goal-mouth scramble.
The home fans soon began dreaming of a glorious comeback as Rusike leveled matters after latching on to Siyabonga Nhlapo's pass to slide the ball home past the keeper. However, the sound of the final whistle bought Sono and his charges crashing back down to earth, where the reality of a season in the NFD awaited the team.
For Leopards the result means their survival hopes will go down to the final day of the season, with the Limpopo-based outfit just two points ahead of Santos with Saturday's round of fixtures remaining.