Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi saved a penalty as the South African league leaders survived a second-half onslaught from Maritzburg United to force a 1-1 draw Sunday.
The 33-year-old Nigerian dived to his right and used both hands to push a Daylon Claasen spot-kick onto the post and away to safety midway through the second half.
Both goals came before half-time at Harry Gwala Stadium in eastern city Pietermaritzburg with Lebogang Manyama putting Chiefs ahead and Judas Moseamedi equalising.
Chiefs, seeking a first trophy in five seasons, go into a mid-season break with 35 points from 14 matches, seven more than defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
German coach Ernst Middendorp was grateful for the point, but unhappy with the performance of a team that has won 11 matches, drawn two and lost only one in the Premiership this season.
“After a good start and scoring first we fell away badly and rarely threatened to score in the second half,” he admitted.
“There were far too many mistakes from some of our most experienced players, many of whom really impressed in training this week.
“However, we have a seven-point lead going into the second half of the season and that is a good position to be in.”
– Over-elaboration –
Maritzburg coach and former South Africa midfielder Eric Tinkler blamed over-elaboration by his attack for failing to win and climb higher than eighth.
“On a number of occasions we took one touch too many in the box and squandered good scoring opportunities.
“It has been a funny first half of the season for us. We played beautiful football and collected hardly any points, then played uglier football and were successful.”
Sundowns needed 86 minutes to break down Polokwane City in Pretoria and win 1-0 with Sibusiso Vilakazi the match-winner after being set up for a tap-in goal by Thapelo Morena.
It was the ninth consecutive league loss by Polokwane, who have fired two coaches this season, and they dropped to last place having topped the table at one stage.
SuperSport United lie third, 11 points behind Chiefs, after a 1-0 loss away to revitalised Chippa United in Port Elizabeth, where Xolani Maholo scored the 42nd-minute winner.
Bidvest Wits are fourth, 12 points adrift of Chiefs with three matches in hand, after drawing 1-1 with Sundowns and beating Cape Town City 2-0 within four days.
Sundowns and Wits are involved in time-consuming CAF competitions and that could count against them domestically as Chiefs have no African commitments.
German Josep Zinnbauer made a satisfactory start as coach of fifth-place Orlando Pirates thanks to a 3-1 home victory over bottom-half Black Leopards in Soweto.
Malawian Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango scored twice in 10 minutes to decide the outcome after Zambian Mwape Musonda had levelled for Leopards.