Cape Town City made a triumphant return to DStv Premiership action after they secured a dramatic 2-1 win over Royal AM at the DHL Stadium on Friday evening.
New signing Bertrand Mani scored on his City debut to break the deadlock on 37 minutes, only for Ruzaigh Gamildien to equalise for Thwihli Thwahla seven minutes later.
But Eric Tinkler’s side ended 2022 on a high after Thabo Nodada stepped off the bench to snatch victory in the first minute of stoppage time to maintain their good run of results on home soil.
Both teams endured a disappointing October as they had to juggle continental football alongside their domestic commitments, although neither of them qualified for the group stages of the CAF competitions.
City’s form before the World Cup break was only marginally better than Royal’s with one win, one draw and two defeats compared to one victory and three losses.
The Citizens were looking to extend their unbeaten run at home to six matches and they created the first chance on nine minutes when Mani steered a header just over the crossbar from a corner.
The visitors managed the first shot on target though, as Kabelo Mahlasela forced a save out of Darren Keet with an effort from inside the area on 14 minutes.
City were making better use of the ball as the first half progressed, with Jaedin Rhodes testing Patrick Nyame from a tight angle on the right in the 18th minute before Khanyisa Mayo had a pop from range that was also dealt with by the Cameroonian goalkeeper on 26 minutes.
Nyame was called into action again on 37 minutes to deny Darwin Gonzalez after he had been found inside the box by Mayo but Mani arrived on the follow-up to slot home the opener from six yards out.
However, the Durban outfit hit back in the final minute of the half when Gamildien guided his header beyond Keet from Jeffrey Dlamini’s cross to restore parity.
City enjoyed a sustained spell of possession in the opening stages of the second half and threatened nine minutes in as Lyle Lakay drew a good save out of Nyame from inside the area after being fed by Mayo on the left.
Gonzalez then went close on the hour mark with a shot from inside the box that was saved by Nyame and the Venezuelan had another sniff at goal seconds later but saw his attempt blocked.
Numerous substitutions were made in the closing stages as the two head coaches looked to counteract weary legs and one of those changes would pay off for the Citizens when Nodada beat Nyame from inside the box in stoppage time after being played through on goal by fellow sub Mduduzi Mdantsane.
Cape Town City (1) 2 (Mani 37′, Nodada 90+1′)
Royal AM (1) 1 (Gamildien 44′)
Cape Town City: D. Keet, T. Mkhize, K. Cupido, T. Fielies, L. Lakay, B. Ambina (T. Nodada 85′), T. Mokeke (R. Mokhuoane 58′), J. Rhodes (M. Mdantsane 75′), K. Mayo, D. Gonzalez (J. Bender 85′), B. Mani (K. Drammeh 75′).
Royal AM: P. Nyame, M. Rikhotso, P. Cele, R. Nascimento, L. Manganyi (T. Potsane 66′), S. Kobedi, J. Dlamini, S. Mogaila, K. Mahlasela (E. Pelembe 81′), T. Matlaba, R. Gamildien (L. Mashiane 83′).
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