A hostile home crowd at Thohoyandou Stadium on Wednesday afternoon proved too much for Platinum Stars to handle as they were beaten 1-0 by National First Division (NFD) side Black Leopards in the opening PSL promotion-relegation play-off game.
Leading up to the encounter, there had been doubting as to whether it would even go ahead, as Ajax Cape Town had spent hours leading up to kick off filing papers with the Johannesburg High Court to interdict the start of the play-offs.
This after the Cape outfit had on Tuesday lost the Tendai Ndoro case (he was deemed ineligible to play after having represented three different clubs in a season) and been docked nine points, resulting in them being automatically relegated.
This saw Platinum Stars suddenly finding themselves bumped up the standings from last to 15th place and thrust a lifeline via the play-offs.
But Ajax failed to get their interdict in time and the game went ahead in front a full house of fired up Leopards fans, eager to see their team back in the top flight.
The hosts made nearly all of the running in the first half as Roger De Sa’s Stars side found themselves under the cosh in the Limpopo sun.
Dikwena seemed fortunate to escape conceding an early penalty when Marks Munyai appeared to have been clipped by Enocent Mkhabela in the box.
There was also a shot from Joseph Mhlongo which was gratefully pouched by Stars keeper Dino Visser on the half-hour mark, while Ivan Mahangwahaya flashed a powerful effort across the face of goal.
The visitors meanwhile failed to offer much of a threat, bar a header from Siphamandla Mlilo which went marginally wide.
Lidoda Duhva had their breakthrough eight minutes after halftime as Mhlongo did brilliantly down the left flank before squaring the ball across goal, a clever dummy from Mahangwahaya setting up Phathutshedzo Nange for a clinical finish into the far post from 15-yards out.
Leopards keeper Rotshidzwa Muleka had some work to do shortly after, doing well to tip a Gerald Phiri effort over the bar.
But despite De Sa going to a back three and throwing additional numbers forward for the final 20 minutes, Stars struggled to find any penetration against a rock-solid home defence.
They thought they had their goal though in the 87th minute when Letsie Koapeng stabbed the ball into the net from a rebound. However, it was ruled out in what seemed a marginal off-side call before Bongi Ntuli had a header deflected wide of goal.
Dikwena continued to rally for an equaliser, but the Venda team held firm to claim all three points.
The next play-off game is set for Sunday when the two NFD sides Jomo Cosmos and Leopards go head to head.
Would you like to place a soccer bet? Click here to get started in 3 easy steps.