CAPE TOWN – Cape Town City had to hold on doggedly to record a 3-2 win over Maritzburg United in an enthralling Premiership encounter at a scorching hot Athlone Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Thami Mkhize gave the Cape team an early lead before Mxolisi Kunene levelled matters in the 61st minute. The hosts then struck with goals from Gift Links and Riyaad Norodien to go 3-1 up, before Fortune Makaringe reduced the deficit in the 84th minute.
Although the home side had dominated large parts of the game, the visitors showed guts in the final 30 minutes and had the Citizens rattled in the closing stages of the match.
Maritzburg may have come into the game on the back of a convincing 3-1 win over Polokwane City, but they looked a team bereft of confidence and after a nervy start by the visitors, City capitalised in the seventh minute when Mkhize came storming in to head home a corner kick.
There was little response from the KZN side as the hosts continued to knock the ball around, looking for openings, and it times it felt like they had an extra man.
That said, for all Benni McCarthy's side's dominance – the majority of the first half was played in the Maritzburg half, the hosts never really looked like adding a second goal.
Eric Tinkler's men did at least have a bit of joy towards the latter stages of the opening stanza through Kunene's pace down the left, but he was unable to locate a teammate with a couple of crosses from dangerous positions.
City’s only other real chance came right near the end of the first half when Team of Choice keeper Richard Ofori got down to a cross and the ball deflected to Gift Links, but a couple of defenders got out quickly to affect a block.
The Cape side started the second half on the front foot and were close to adding a second when Craig Martin's shot from the edge of the area narrowly missed picking out the top corner.
Instead, Maritzburg were to grab an equaliser against the run of play as Kunene found space on the left hand side of the box, getting in behind the defence before burying a low shot past Peter Leeuwenburgh just after the hour mark.
Parity was, however, to last for just nine minutes as Links reclaimed the lead for the hosts after he drilled an unstoppable angled shot into the far corner.
It got worse for the Pietermaritzburg side when Norodien's shot from just inside the box deflected off a defender and into the net.
The visitors were however to show courage as they fought back and when Judas Moseamedi squared the ball for Makaringe with six minutes to play, he made no mistake with a thumping first time finish.
Their tails up, Maritzburg threw everything forward in the dying stages of the match and it took some backs-to-the-wall defending from the Citizens to see out the match – which ended several minutes later after a series of altercations between the two benches, in what ended a rather heated encounter.
African News Agency (ANA)