PIETERMARITZBURG – Workers’ Day was a profitable one for Maritzburg United as they captured the big scalp of Cape Town City with a 1-0 home win at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Monday.
A late dipping free kick by home captain Kurt Lentjies earned the Team of Choice a hat-trick of wins and a fourth home victory in succession as they cemented seventh spot in the standings.
Cape Town City defender Robyn Johannes shrugs off the challenge from Mohau Mokate of Maritzburg United. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix
With four matches to play, Maritzburg are in a strong position to qualify for a top-eight finish for the second time in their history.
The result makes for an interesting run-in to the title after City lost for the first time in 11 league outings. Their last league upset was in December at Free State Stars.
City appeared to be in a true holiday mood as they battled to switch on, and hardly got in a proper shot on Virgil Vries’ goal.
Early in the game, Maritzburg defender Bevan Fransman found himself on the end of two free kicks, which were half-chances at best. From open play, newcomer Mlondi Dlamini had two better views of goal, but couldn’t beat Shuaib Walters in the City goal.
It was pretty much Maritzburg’s half. Defender Pogiso Sanoka blazed an effort over. Then Siphesihle Ndlovu sliced through the City midfield for Lebohang Maboe to be set up, but he too skied the chance.
Late in the half, Maritzburg captain Kurt Lentjies had the ball in the net, but the celebrations were halted by referee Chris Harrison’s offside call.
The most they had to show for their dominance were three yellows to Kwanda Mngonyama, Dlamini and Fortune Makaringe.
They will hope those cautions don’t prove costly over the final stretch as they attempt to secure a top-eight finish.
It just wasn’t City’s afternoon as they struggled to get going into the home team’s half, and before the interval, Sibusiso Masina replaced ineffective attacker Bongolethu Jayiya. Only Austrian midfielder Roland Putsche looked lively in the City midfield.
No surprise then that coach Eric Tinkler stormed off towards the tunnel after shaking his head in frustration when another move broke down as striker Lehlohonolo Majoro failed to get in on goal.
City were first on to the field after the break and even got in some stretching routines with their fitness trainer before the home team and match officials arrived. Whether it was that mini-workout or the halftime pep talk from Tinkler, the visitors were a livelier bunch at the restart, and winger Aubrey Ngoma had their first decent shot goalwards.\
The attacking moment failed to gather momentum and Maritzburg got back into their dominant stride. Their cause was helped by the introductions of striker Andrea Fileccia and winger Devon Saal for Mokate and Dlamini respectively.
Tinkler introduced Judas Moseamedi for Majoro to freshen the visitors’ front-line, but then too the surprise league title contenders failed to get into the groove that kept them in the hunt throughout the campaign.
Defender Tshepo Gumede flashed a header wide, and Ngoma had a strong chance to grab a goal from close-range as they tried to get into the clash. It wasn’t to be and a stray cross from their captain and top-scorer, Lebogang Manyama, highlighted that this just wasn’t their day.
Six minutes from time, Maritzburg took advantage of a soft free kick awarded by Chris Harrison, and Lentjies bent in a peach of a strike that beat Walters at his near-post.
TOP PHOTO:Coach Eric Tinkler was upset with the first-half performance by Cape Town City. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix