DURBAN – The hopes of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in the Nedbank Cup are now left on the hands of Maritzburg United, who defeated National First Division outfit Royal Eagles 2-1 in their last-16 encounter at Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu on Sunday.
The supporters came in their numbers as the grandstand was packed.
Siyanda Xulu made sure that there was no extra time when he netted the winner at the death after Deolin Mekoa delivered a well-taken corner.
The game was delayed for 45 minutes when heavy rain and lightning struck, as referee Victor Hlungwani and his colleagues stopped the match for the players’ safety.
It was 1-1 when the game was stopped, looked like it was heading for extra time.
Maritzburg United coach Fadlu Davids went for a full-strength team.
The only player that was missing for the Team of Choice was their talisman Andrea Fileccia, who was suspended.
Mohau Mokate fluffed a great opportunity to put his team in the lead after he was well spotted by Lebohang Maboe on the 17th minutes.
He took his time on the ball, and Philani Cele did a great job by putting his body on the ball to block the shot.
Maboe was the key factor for the Team of Choice as they dominated possession, but failed to make penetrative passes in the final third.
Eagles packed the midfield and kept two lines in front of their box to frustrate the visitors.
The Team of Choice were reduced to 10 men after Bevan Fransman got his second yellow card for fouling Joshua Sauls a minute before the interval.
But that didn’t affect Maritzburg as they scored the opener soon after Fransman was given his marching orders.
Mekoa netted the opener after 47 minutes when he received a lovely pass from Siphesihle Ndlovu, who rolled pass the Eagles defence.
Eagles mentor Roger Sikhakhane made two quick substitutions after the interval, introducing Masibusane Zongo and Siyanda Ngubo in place of Mazwi Mncube and Sauls.
The Eagles’ best opportunity fell for Cele, who made a telling run and showed composure to trap the ball with his chest and then unleash a shot that went wide.
Mame Niang brought the Eagles back into the match by slotting a penalty after Brian Onyango fouled Samuel Manganyi in the 74th minute.
Zongo made an instant impact as he gave Eagles control in the middle of the park.
Just five minutes before the game ended, lightning accompanied by heavy rain forced the game to be stopped for 45 minutes.
Eagles smashed the ball on to the crossbar twice after the game resumed, including a thunderous shot by Mpho Mvelase, but Maritzburg escaped.
Xulu made sure that there’s no extra time as he netted the winner at the death after he out-jumped the Eagles defence.
The draw for the quarter-finals will take place in Cape Town on Thursday.