A refereeing error helped Kaizer Chiefs beat nine-man Chippa United 1-0 Wednesday and stay top of the South African Premiership table on goal difference with one round remaining.
The match official awarded Chiefs a free-kick 11 minutes from time as he believed veteran goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune had been fouled when attempting to clear a corner.
But TV replays showed that no Chippa player made contact with the shot-stopper before he fell, and the shot by Zimbabwean Elvis Moyo that found the net should have been a goal.
“It was a goal,” said TV analyst and former South Africa forward Mark Williams, and retired Chiefs captain and fellow studio guest Jimmy Tau agreed.
The controversial decision at a cold Orlando Stadium in Soweto allowed Chiefs to remain ahead of defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns on goal difference, plus 21 against plus 18.
Both clubs have 56 points from 29 matches and they will face clubs battling to avoid relegation in the final round this Saturday when the league reaches a climax.
Chiefs meet second-last Baroka in Johannesburg and Sundowns play third-from bottom Black Leopards at the same time in Soweto.
In South Africa, goal difference is the first tie-breaker should clubs finish level on points, followed by goals scored.
The disallowed strike by Chippa goal overshadowed Zimbabwean Khama Billiat scoring his first goal since last September to win the match.
Billiat, reportedly the highest paid Premiership star with a monthly salary of about 500,000 rand ($30,000/25,000 euros), struck after nine minutes.
– ‘One hand on trophy’ –
Eric Mathoho did superbly to cross while tightly marked and Serb Samir Nurkovic nodded the ball across the goalmouth for Billiat to tap in at the far post.
Chippa had Tercious Malepe red-carded for a last-defender foul on 67 minutes and Moyo was sent off with two minutes of regular time left for a studs-up tackle.
“It was not easy tonight, but we got the three points and are top of the table with one match to play,” said Chiefs centre-back and man of the match Daniel Cardoso.
“We have one hand on the trophy and must recover tomorrow, train on Friday and hopefully win on Saturday.”
While Chiefs were labouring to a victory over 12th-place Chippa, Sundowns kept alive hopes of a third straight Premiership title by outplaying bottom side Polokwane City 3-0 in Pretoria.
Uruguayan playmaker Gaston Sirino was involved in the late first-half goals by Anele Ngcongca and Themba Zwane that gave Sundowns a two-goal half-time advantage.
Substitute Keletso Makgalwa completed the scoring deep in stoppage time to leave Polokwane with little hope of moving off the bottom and dodging relegation.
City, who finished in the top half of the table last season, are three points below second-last Baroka and have a far inferior goal difference.
Baroka scored first against SuperSport United, but had Nhlanhla Mgaga red-carded soon after conceding an equaliser and finished 4-1 losers in Johannesburg.
The Premiership resumed on August 11 after a five-month suspension due to the coronavirus and matches are being played behind closed doors in Johannesburg, Soweto and Pretoria.