PIETERMARITZBURG – The Telkom Knockout kicked off with a featherweight bout when Platinum Stars prevailed 3-1 on penalties against Maritzburg United at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Friday night.
The teams exchanged light jabs between the boxes as normal and extra time passed without goals.
That was no surprise, given Maritzburg’s seven-game winless streak and Platinum’s failure to register a win since they kicked off the season with a league defeat to Maritzburg.
On Friday night, however, the visitors exacted revenge when they prevailed on penalties, where goalkeeper Dino Visser came out tops with two stops.
More than just winning this tie, Platinum celebrated their first triumph of the season.
The last time they beat Maritzburg in this competition in the first round, they went on to win the 2013 trophy, and they’ll hope this is an omen of further glory.
Earlier newcomer to the pro scene, Katlego Otladisa, was a bright spark in Platinum’s midfield engine, making influential runs going forward and tracking back to defend.
His threat drew a clattering tackle from defender Siyanda Xulu, who earned a booking for his body blow on the sprightly winger.
It followed an overhead attempt on goal by Man-of-the-Match Otladisa in the 10th minute, one of the better early chances from either side in the first half.
Platinum didn’t sweat in containing the home team, but were fortunate not to concede late in the half when striker Evans Rusike got his angles wrong, following a triangular move involving Devon Saal and striker Mohau Mokate.
The first-half stalemate dragged into the second period, broken by the interruptions of players being substituted or booked as the teams searched in vain for the knockout goal.
Otladisa received more blows than the goalkeepers as the tie was bogged down, with limited penetrative moves.
The longer the game went on, Otladisa’s impact on goal waned, and he too ended up getting booked.
Maritzburg newcomer, Australian-South African Liam Youlley, joined the players on yellow cards for a late tackle on Otladisa.
For Maritzburg, midfielder Lebohang Maboe cut through the middle early in the second half for a rare sight of goal, but his drive was parried by goalkeeper Dino Visser.
The introduction of Deolin Mekoa for Saal raised the tempo for the home side, but then the cup affair ran dry of clear goalmouth action.
Visiting coach Roger de Sa freshened his line-up too, sending in Malawian playmaker Robert Ng’ambi and striker Bonginkosi Ntuli.
But on a damp pitch, following an earlier downpour, the legs were bound to feel the strain and the pace slipped a few notches.
Defensively at least De Sa would have been pleased that his men did well to stretch the clash into extra time without conceding, a sign of their steady improvement.
For Maritzburg, however, their struggle to unlock the Platinum defence despite plenty of ball in this home game would be a growing concern for coach Fadlu Davids and his bosses.
The lottery of the penalties beckoned, and Maritzburg missed their first one as Bevan Fransman skied his shot, followed by Mokate and then Youlley.
For Platinum Bongi Ntuli, Vuyo Mere and Siyabonga Zulu converted.