Pietermaritzburg – A debut goal from Kwanda Mngonyama proved to be the winner as Maritzburg United won their opening home match of the Premiership season 2-1 against Polokwane City in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday night.
Mohau Mokate opened the scoring after 28 minutes and was then sent off in what was also his first match at the Harry Gwala Stadium, while Puleng Tlolane's excellent 35th minute free-kick gave the visitors brief hope.
Elias Ngwepe and Mokate were both dismissed in the 48th minute, before Mngonyama, on loan from Mamelodi Sundowns, netted with a tap-in after 61 minutes to claim all the points from a pulsating encounter.
The hosts made the stronger start in front of a sparse crowd, with youngster Deolin Mekoa looking particularly threatening in attack in the opening 10 minutes.
But the first clear-cut opening fell to the visitors after a training-ground free-kick saw Mothusi Gopane drill in low to the edge of the box from where Tlolane forced Shuaib Walters into an excellent low save, the ball tipped around the post for a corner.
Gopane again delivered a probing ball, which Vukile Mngqibisa miscued wide.
But United went ahead with their first shot on goal after 28
minutes. Kurt Lentjies was the architect as he escaped down the right and crossed for Thamsanqa Mkhize, who held up the ball and slipped in Mokate, and the striker's effort went in off the hand of goalkeeper Dino Visser.
However, Polokwane drew level seven minutes later when a splendid 25-yard free-kick by Tlolane beat Walters at the near post and rattled into the top left corner.
Benson Mhlongo could have put the visitors ahead before the break, but fired inches wide with Walters scrambling as the sides went into the break level.
After the restart, the match turned on its head after goalscorer Mokate and Ngwepe were both red carded Ä the latter for a bad challenge and the former for what appeared to be some altercations after the incident.
Back to play, Gopane and Mekoa both wasted decent chances as the game began to open up more.
And United deservedly took the lead just after the hour when a corner was flicked on to the centre of the box where the ball fell for Mngonyama to tap in.
Ashley Hartog, Mondli Cele and Mohammed Awal had further chances to extend the lead, but were off-target with their long-range efforts, before Jabulani Maluleke squandered a better opening when he mis-kicked the ball from eight yards out with six minutes to play.
But the Team of Choice held on. – Sapa