Eagles draw first blood in the promotion-relegation play-offs

Eagles draw first blood in the promotion-relegation play-offs

Royal Eagles FC celebrate the opening goal during the NFD Promotion/Relegation Play-off match between Royal Eagles and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila at Chatsworth Stadium.(Photo by Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images)

Royal Eagles beat fellow National First Division (NFD) club Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) 1-0 at the Chatsworth Stadium on Wednesday afternoon in the first match of the 2018/19 Premiership play-offs.

In a tight match, Strydom Wambi’s goal midway through the opening half proved the difference.

There was little to separate the sides in the opening minutes – while the visiting team managed to get in a couple of long range efforts, none of which troubled goalkeeper Hugo Nyame, the hosts enjoyed some promising moments in and around the opposition box. But the problem was, no one wanted to take responsibility with the shot.

It was from a set piece that Eagles took the lead, as Wambi timed his near post movement to perfection to thud a header into the net following Sabata Mosebo’s 22nd minute corner kick.

There was a great chance for TTM to get back in the game soon after when Mboniseni Mbandlwa found space in the box, but his effort went straight at Nyame.

After Eagles had again failed to turn good positions into shots, the visitors were close to levelling the game a minute before the break when some careless play by Nyame allowed Thembisani Nevhulamba to steal the ball, but in attempting to volley it into an unguarded net, he fired well wide.

Clearcut chances remained rare after the break as Tshakhuma pushed and probed for openings, but came up short in the final third.

Eagles, meanwhile, were close to adding a second goal when Wambi’s header hit the crossbar, although he was incorrectly called off-sides.

It was only on 70 minutes when the Limpopo outfit again threatened the Durban team’s goal when veteran striker Edward Manqele curled in an 18-yard shot, but the Cameroon-born Nyame was up to the task with a brilliant fingertip save.

More chances followed for Tshakhuma and Nyame again did well to keep out a fierce 78th minute strike from Phumelele Bhengu, before Bhengu’s header from the resultant corner was cleared off the line by Mosebo.

Having done well to soak up the pressure, Eagles could have improved their goal difference late in added time when Diego Brown ran clear through on goal, but his parting shot rolled wide as the KZN side were left to settle for the 1-0 win.

The next play-off game sees Eagles making the short trip to their former home ground, the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg, to take on Maritzburg United on Sunday afternoon.


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