Black Leopards defeated Jomo Cosmos 1-0 at the Thohoyandou Stadium on Wednesday afternoon to secure promotion to next season’s Absa Premiership.
Lidoda Duvha’s victory – which was secured by a goal from Karabo Tshepe – ensured they will finish top of the promotion/relegation playoff log (regardless of the result in the final match between Cosmos and Platinum Stars this weekend) and return to the PSL for the first time since 2012/13.
The teams traded early half chances, but neither was really able to test the respective goalkeepers, Rotshidzwa Muleka and King Ndlovu.
Leopards then claimed the lead on 25 minutes with their first clear scoring opportunity. Joseph Mhlongo provided a great cross from near the left by-line to find Karabo Tshepe, who sent a low drive between the legs of Ndlovu to make it 1-0 to the hosts.
Cosmos almost came up with a reply just three minutes after going behind, as a deflected shot from Tebogo Makobela fell kindly for Siphesihle Nzimande, but the forward poked his effort wide of goal with only the ‘keeper to beat.
Lidoda Duvha very nearly claimed a second goal late in the first half, with Tshepe poised to score into an empty net from close range after Ndlovu was caught off his line, but a brilliant tackle from Ange Lebahi kept the score at 1-0.
Cosmos made a couple of substitutions 10 minutes into the second stanza in an effort to shake things up in their attack, with Tebogo Tlolane and Ismail Mgunda coming off the bench, but the next major chance went the way of Leopards, who saw Khomotso Masia miss the target with a headed effort on the hour mark.
On 65 minutes Leopards goalkeeper Muleka produced a superb save to keep his team in the ascendancy, diving to his left to palm away a goal-bound header from Nzimande.
That proved to be the last clear scoring chance for Ezenkosi, while Leopards blew a couple of wonderful opportunities in the dying minutes but still managed to see out the game and spark wild celebrations in Thohoyandou to mark their return to top flight football.
Black Leopards (1) 1 (Tshepe 25’)
Jomo Cosmos 0
Leopards: Muleka, Mashoene, Masia, Munganga, Munyai, Nene, Mudau (Ndlovu 73’), Nange, Tshepe (Ndou 64’), Mhlongo, Musonda
Cosmos: Ndlovu, Gebhardt, Lebahi, Lingwati, Makobela, Sibeko, Haoseb, Manjoe, Sono Jr (Mgunda 55’), Mabula (Tlolane 55’), Nzimande (Hlongwane 66’)