Tiklas Thutlwa scored on either side of the break as basement club Black Leopards dragged Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs into an unwanted relegation scrap with the end of the season approaching.
CAPE TOWN — Tiklas Thutlwa may have been relative unknown prior to Wednesday, but he will now forever be known in Thohoyandou as “The Amakhosi Slayer” as his brace breathed fresh life in Black Leopards’ bid to stave off automatic relegation.
Thutlwa, 22, had not scored in the DStv Premiership before, but struck either side of halftime to propel his side to a thrilling 2-1 victory and most importantly earned the Limpopo side three invaluable league points.
The Limpopo-based club are still rooted to the bottom of the table, but they are clearly not going down without a fight as they are now just three points of their nearest rivals Chippa United. The bottom Dstv Premiership club goes straight down to the Glad Africa Championship, while the 15th placed team gets an another opportunity to stay up via the playoffs.
Chiefs, however, remain a shadow of the team that progressed to CAF Champions League semi-finals when they return to the hun-drum of the domestic Dstv Premiership.
Coach Gavin Hunt’s frustrationa to create some form of stability in his starting line-up continues abated as again he travelled to Thohoyandou without five of his key players.
Dumisani Zuma, Khama Billiat and Lebohang Lesako were all out injured, while Njabulo Blom and Willard Katsande were on the sidelines due to suspension.
Happy Mashiane, Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, Lazarous Kambole and Darrel Matsheke therefore all came into the starting XI for the clash against the relegation candidates.
Initially, though, the changes seemed, galvanise Chiefs in the early stages as they took an early lead when Kambole ran onto a deft flick on from Leonardo Castro.
The Zambian, enjoying a rare start for the Amakhosi, played the ball across the goal area where Mashiane was well positioned for a routine tap in.
However, the initial strike from Mashiane was superbly saved by diving Jonas Mendes in the Leopards goal. The chance did not go abegging, though, as Castro followed up his initial flick on and was first to react to the rebound inside the Leopards box to drill the ball home and give the Amakhosi an early lead.
But Leopards are in survival mode and they knew they needed to dig even deeper now and could not afford to just roll over. They needed to fightback and continue to press if they harboured any hopes of remaining among the elite of South African football.
Thutlwa was proving to be menace early on already and after missing an earlier opportunity when he pulled his strike wide of the post, he had another shot on goal midway through the first half whichrequired a smart save from Bruce Bvuma after the ball deflected off Chiefs defender Eric Mathoho.
Leopards continued to claw their back into the contest when Sanele Mathenjwa came close to snatching the equaliser for the hosts six minutes before the break with a free header inside the box that sailed slightly over the bar.
However, it was that man Thutlwa that was destined to get his name on the scoresheet when he deservedly levelled matters on the stroke of halftime with a tap in at the far post after a good cross from Tsheamo Mashoene.
Thutlwa’s second goal was even better after he headed home from close range after being teed up by Tebogo Makobela.
Chiefs had their opportunities, but the woodwork denied Castro and some superb goalkeeping from Mendes kept Bernard Parker and Sabelo Radeba at bay in the closing stages.