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Pietermaritzburg – Terrance Mandaza struck twice within the space of two minutes late Maritzburg United fought from a goal down to clinch a spirited 2-1 Absa Premiership victory over Black Leopards in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday afternoon.
The Zimbabwean striker, guilty of some bad misses earlier, scored in the 84th and 86th minutes after Nkosiyabo Xakane had given the visitors an earlier lead following an error from home captain Shuaib Walters.
It was just reward for the Team of Choice, who are now up to fifth after ending a seven game winless run, as they dominated for almost the entire game without taking their chances.
There was a bright start to the clash as Ayanda Mtshali almost gifted the host an opener in the third minute when he fumbled a regulation Dillon Sheppard free-kick, with Philani Zulu scuffing the rebound.
The lively start continued as Rodney Ramagalela splendidly played in Abbas Amidu through on the right, but the Zimbabwean skewed his shot horribly wide.
United had another excellent chance after seven minutes when Sheppard floated in a free-kick from the right after he was hacked down on the left side of the box by Ernort Dzaga, but Mario Booysen’s attempted header went off his shoulder and wastefully wide.
Still in the opening quarter, Delron Buckley slid in Mandaza, whose off-balance and cross-goal shot was pushed wide as he shifted feet.
Chances continued to come thick and fast and on the hour mark, Sheppard excellently spun away from his marker, before dinking a shot just over.
The Team of Choice had two great chances thereafter.
First Zulu forced Mtshali to turn the ball around the post after a quick breakaway, before the Leopards goalkeeper produced a stunning one-handed save to keep out Buckley’s 25-yard effort.
And before the break, Mandaza did well to shrug off two players, although he lifted another poor effort over.
It was goalless at the break and after the restart, Leopards immediately upped the tempo.
Within two minutes of the restart Raymond Monama almost beat Walters with an inswinging corner that was dipping in under the post, forcing the home custodian to turn the ball over.
Amidu then did well to lose his marker on the left, before finding the side netting with his tight-angled attempt.
The visitors then stunned the hosts by going ahead in the 56th minute ÄWalters rushing off his line to unconvincingly punch away a Monama corner, allowing Amidu to pounce on the loose ball and play it across the goal for Xakane to turn in.
At the other end, Ruben Cloete should have done better than directing a free header from Buckley’s free-kick straight at Mtshali, while Mohammed Awal and Michael Morton booted woefully over not long after.
Then came the late drama as Sheppard’s cushioned header enabled Mandaza to slam in from close range.
Less than 120 seconds later, Ernst Middendorp’s men clinched the winner as Mandaza curled in exquisitely from 18 yards to send the home fans into ecstasy. – Sapa