Durban — Royal AM dropped more points in their quest for CAF Champions League football after being held to a 2-2 draw by Golden Arrows at the Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium on Saturday.
John Maduka’s side got off to a flying start when Mfundo Thikazi opened the scoring in the ninth minute, but Abafana Bes’thende hit back through Pule Mmodi, nine minutes later.
Mokete Mogaila would restore their lead just after the half-hour mark, only for Nduduzo Sibiya to level matters once again from the penalty spot in the 38th minute.
Chances continued to come in the second half, although there were no further goals in this KZN derby as Thwihli Thwahla’s disappointing run carried on, with Kaizer Chiefs closing right up behind them in fourth place after going level on 46 points.
Their city neighbours remain in the ninth position, but they are now tied with SuperSport United on 37 points in the battle for a top-eight finish.
Arrows came into the clash without a victory in their last two games, while Royal were looking to snap a three-match winless streak in the league.
The first half was an end-to-end affair and the visitors drew first blood in the derby when Thikazi gathered the ball and attacked the space that was afforded to him before slotting home from inside the area in the ninth minute.
Abafana Bes’thende looked to respond and Nqobeko Dlamini tried his luck from distance in the 13th minute, only to see his shot drift past the far post.
However, they were back on level terms five minutes later as Mmodi capped off a fine move at the back post, tucking the ball past Patrick Nyame in off the upright from a tight angle.
Mmodi was presented with another chance from almost the same exact position moments later but blazed over the crossbar before Saziso Magawana was denied by Nyame twice in quick succession in the 25th minute after finding himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Velemseni Ndwandwe attempted to catch Nyame off his line with a clever chip on 29 minutes, although the keeper managed to get a glove onto the ball and it proved a crucial save as Royal went in front again four minutes later via the boot of Mogaila, who beat Sifiso Mlungwana from inside the box.
Their lead lasted just five minutes on this occasion after Mmodi drew a foul inside the area to win a penalty, which was converted by Sibiya to restore parity once more.
Sibiya had another sniff at goal two minutes later following a swift counter from the hosts, but he wasn’t able to get the better of Nyame, who pulled off a superb save.
Both teams continued to push for more goals after the restart, although the flow of the game was disrupted by a couple of injury breaks.
Ndwandwe tested Nyame from an acute angle on 67 minutes and Mmodi couldn’t get enough power behind his poked effort to beat the visiting keeper at the back post three minutes later.
Royal applied late pressure on the home goal, but desperate defending kept them at bay, while Mmodi had a late chance to snatch victory when he chased a long ball upfield and nearly capitalised on a fumble by Nyame, who was able to recover after a frantic scramble.