Marumo Gallants celebrating their 1st goal during the DStv Premiership 2022/23 match between Marumo Gallants FC and Royal AM held at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on 05 April 2023 ©Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix

Marumo Gallants gave their DStv Premiership survival hopes a major boost with a clutch 3-1 home win over Royal AM at the Free State Stadium on Wednesday evening.

Cheick Soumaro and Mahlatse Makudubela scored late on as Bahlabane ba Ntwa registered just a fourth win of the season. They remain bottom of the log, but have closed to within one point of the relegation playoff zone and to within three points of safety.

As for Thwihli Thwahla, this is an 11th loss of the season and sees them remain in 11th place, still one point off a spot in the top half of the log.

Gallants found their passing rhythm early in the game and created the first chance on 10 minutes when Katlego Otladisa set up Sibusiso Sibeko, who saw his low shot brilliantly saved by Royal ‘keeper Zakahle Ngcobo.

Yet just a minute later Ngcobo was beaten, with Lesiba Nku picking up a pass from Lebohang Mabotja, cutting inside two defenders and firing a low shot into the bottom corner of the net for 1-0.

Bahlabane ba Ntwa played some fine football in the wake of the opening goal, with Nku heading wide on 19 minutes and Otladisa sending a long-range effort just off target shortly thereafter.

Yet Royal gradually grew in confidence and began to mount some attacking pressure, with Tebogo Potsane and Ruzaigh Gamildien coming more into the game as Elias Pelembe began to pull the strings from midfield.

Thwihli Thwahla threatened an equaliser just before the break when Potsane latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the box and shot on target, but Washington Arubi was well placed to make a save and ensure the halftime score was 1-0.

Royal made a double change at the start of the second half, with Mbhazima Rikhotso and Lantshene Phalane rising off the bench to replace Mthokozisi Dube and Shadrack Kobedi. The visitors should have levelled the game on 48 minutes when Pelembe had a free header at close range, but put his effort over the crossbar.

Shortly before the hour mark Gallants dialled up the pressure and first forced a fine save from Ngcobo to keep out Oltladisa’s long-range shot, before Nku had a contender for ‘miss of the season’ when he failed to turn home a chance almost on the goal line.

Royal responded with further changes, as Sedwyn George, Mxolisi Machupu and Mfundo Thikazi were introduced, but they struggled to create clear-cut chances.

In fact, it looked more likely that Bahlabane ba Ntwa would net a second goal on the counter attack, with Celimpilo Ngema shooting just wide on 80 minutes.

Yet as fulltime approached the hosts began to withdraw and play deep in defence, inviting Royal to build pressure in attack, and an equalising goal arrived in spectacular fashion on 85 minutes when Thikazi struck home a superb effort directly from a free kick.

Gallants threw on Judas Moseamedi and Mahlatse Makudubela in a last-ditch effort to win the game and they were rewarded on 89 minutes when Lucky Mohomi’s great pass opened the path for Cheick Soumaro to fire home a low, left-footed shot which decided the game in favour of the hosts.

A late fracas, which saw several Gallants bench players sent off (while Royal strangely escaped similar censure), saw plenty of injury time added on, and in the eighth minute of it Makudubela wrapped up the victory with a fine strike on the counter.

The teams will return to DStv Premiership action in the coming weekend, with Gallants away to Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday 8 April and Royal at home to Stellenbosch on Sunday 9 April.

Marumo Gallants (1) 3 (Nku 11’, Soumaro 89’, Makudubela 90+8’)

Royal AM (0) 1 (Thikazi 85’)


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