Johannesburg – Victor Letsoalo copied the penalty technique of Chelsea and Italy star Jorginho to score as newcomers Royal AM rose five places to second in the South African Premiership with a 1-0 win over Kaizer Chiefs on Sunday.
The South African international ran forward then hopped before sending Nigeria goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi the wrong way from a 38th-minute spot-kick in the Indian Ocean port city of Durban.
Royal AM, a second division club who bought the franchise of financially struggling Bloemfontein Celtic to secure a place in the elite league, needed maximum points to deprive Chiefs of second spot.
Having taken the lead, they had to survive a late onslaught from Chiefs to retain the lead and complete a double having won 4-1 away during September against the most popular club in South Africa.
Bankrolled by businesswoman and TV show host Shauwn Mkhize, Royal lost their first two league games, but bounced back under Malawian coach John Maduka to win seven and drawn five of the following 14 matches.
Letsoalo has been a key figure in the unexpected success, bagging nine goals to lie second behind 13-goal Namibian Peter Shalulile from leaders Mamelodi Sundowns in the Premiership scorers’ charts.
Maduka hailed a defence in which Thato Lingwati starred after inflicting on Chiefs their first league loss in six matches.
“It says a lot about our defence that goalkeeper Hugo (Nyame) had less to do than in most of our matches this season.
“Our defensive organisation was magnificent against one of the most potent attacks in the Premiership, as was the tactical discipline of the whole team.”
Arthur Zwane, deputising as Chiefs coach because England-born Stuart Baxter is recovering from coronavirus, said “the outcome might have been different” had the woodwork not deprived Leonardo Castro.
The Colombian struck the post with a close-range attempt in the opening half and a second-half shot from Letsoalo rebounded off the crossbar.
Although the 30-round Premiership season has just passed the halfway stage, Sundowns hold a 17-point lead in pursuit of a record-extending fifth straight title.
After battling to overcome bottom club Baroka five days ago, the Pretoria outfit produced a second-half masterclass to crush visiting Orlando Pirates 4-1 on Friday.
Slovakian international Pavel Safranko came off the bench to score twice as the former African champions built a four-goal lead before Fortune Makaringe netted for the Soweto Buccaneers in added time.
Sundowns have 43 points, Royal and Stellenbosch 26, Chiefs 25, Pirates, AmaZulu and Sekhukhune United 24 and SuperSport United 23 in the top half of the standings.
Perennial strugglers Chippa United climbed two places to 13th thanks to a 2-0 win at Maritzburg United courtesy of a brace from Cameroonian Bienvenu Eva Nga, who has scored seven goals in five matches.
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