PIETERMARITZBURG – The fairytale start to the season ended abruptly for Maritzburg United after they crashed out of the MTN8 with a 2-0 loss to SuperSport United at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday night.
Two headers by striker Jeremy Brockie gave SuperSport an aggregate 3-1 victory and earned the club a fifth final appearance in the tournament, which they have won once.
The result also inflicted a first defeat on the home unit, who went into the clash unbeaten.
SuperSport got off to a perfect start when Brockie powered in a close-range header 14 minutes into this semi-final second leg tie, and another in the final minute of the half, giving the visitors a 3-1 aggregate advantage.
The Kiwi assassin missed the first-leg affair a fortnight ago after he requested a transfer following interest from Mamelodi Sundowns, which his club rejected.
With his showing on Saturday night, Brockie would have convinced the SuperSport management that he had got over the transfer request rejection and that he was fully committed to the Pretoria outfit’s cause.
How Maritzburg must have wished that the New Zealander would have succeeded in getting his transfer...
Brockie enjoys a great strike rate against the Midlands team, with four goals in five previous starts. His double in the first half made it six in six.
Besides enhancing his own statistics against Maritzburg, the striker kept up his club’s hoodoo status over the Team of Choice.
The KwaZulu-Natal side had never beaten SuperSport at home in league or cup play throughout their history.
Their overall record against SuperSport was also woeful, with a lowly two wins from 25 meetings, both registered away.
It might have been worse had midfielder Siphesihle Ndlovu been sent off for a late studs-up sliding tackle on SuperSport defender Grant Kekana in the 33rd minute.
Brockie was one of two changes from the earlier game, the other being midfielder Dean Furman.
Captain Furman also made a welcome return to the line-up, putting winger Aubrey Modiba into space for the cross that picked out Brockie for the opener
Modiba also assisted with the second goal.
SuperSport started with five players who were in the South African squad that suffered back to back World Cup group qualifier defeats to Cape Verde last week.
The return to club duty for Furman, goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, Clayton Daniels, Morgan Gould and Bradley Grobler must have been a relief after the lows with Bafana Bafana.
The home side made a valiant attempt at fighting back, but this was an efficient and ruthless SuperSport, whose pedigree shone through, helped by their numerous internationals.
Upstarts Maritzburg, comprised largely of youngsters and several newcomers, had surprised Sundowns 1-0 away in the opening round of the competition.
On Saturday night, there was little opportunity for striker Evans Rusike and winger Deolin Mekoa after SuperSport grabbed the lead.
Midfielder Bandile Shandu had chances on either side of Brockie’s first goal, but fluffed them.
After the interval it got worse for the home side, when newcomer Yazid Atouba was sent off for a second yellow card offence.
The Cameroonian made his debut when he replaced Sheldon van Wyk in the second half, but a second caution for simulation made it a miserable start to his career in South Africa after transferring from AS Vita in the DR Congo.
Maritzburg will look to recover from this setback, their first defeat in five league and cup outings, when they return to league duty with a KwaZulu-Natal derby against AmaZulu in Durban on Tuesday.