Sibusiso Hlubi scored a late penalty to earn Mthatha Bucks three points as they overcame National First Division rookies, Real Kings FC 2-1 at the Mthatha Stadium on Saturday.
Bucks, who were targeting early goals, had to dig deep to get the better of the visitors as Kings defended in numbers.
Predictably, Kings employed typical away team tactics as they seemed happy to play on the counter.
Ian Palmer’s men dominated the game and created eight chances.
However, the team failed to convert the three chances that were on target in the opening half as Kings shot-stopper Mlungisi Mazibuko produced the goods and kept his side in the game.
Had it not been for Mazibuko’s brilliance in goals, Bucks could have wrapped up the game in the opening stanza.
Bucks were a marvel to watch, especially in the first half as the combination of captain Thabiso Mokoena, Wandisile Fukutwa, Madumetja “Di Maria” Khwinana and Hlubi in the midfield worked well as they dominated and dictated the pace of the game.
Crowd favourite Mashale Rantabane also played well in central defence and made some impressive runs whenever he attacked. He could have also scored with a header in the first half but his header went just wide.
The ever reliable Bucks leading goalscorer Mazwi “Jomo” Mncube, Khwinana and Hlubi were among those who gave the visitors a tough time but they just could not find the back of the net as Mazibuko stood his ground.
Bucks goalkeeper Luvo Nkala might as well have been on holiday in the first 45 minutes as he only made one save in the half as his side camped in the Kings’ half.
Kings midfielder Ntsako Malhubela almost broke the deadlock immediately after the break but his shot sailed over the bar after Bucks defenders were caught napping.
In the 49th minute Chileshe Kangwa rose to connect with a Mncube corner and put his side in the lead with his eighth goal of the season.
Bucks could have doubled their lead but Khwinana’s shot with his weaker right foot was blocked after beautiful transitional football – while Rantabane’s header from Hlubi’s corner was cleared off the line.
The lead was short-lived as central defender Gift Sithole conceded a penalty six minutes later.
Siphesihle Nzimande stepped up and sent Nkala the wrong way to level matters.
Bucks sealed the win in the 83rd minute when Hlubi was fouled in the box. He slotted the penalty past a diving Mazibuko.
After the game Palmer praised his charges for a sterling all-round performance.
“I must give credit to the boys – they were fantastic today, defensively and going forward,” he said.
His Kings counterpart Simo Dladla said his players were intimidated by the packed stadium.