PIETERMARITZBURG – Bidvest Wits remain on track to defend their Telkom Knockout (TKO) title after a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Maritzburg United at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday night.
In what was an ill-tempered affair, the visitors had looked comfortable after scoring two goals in three minutes just before the interval, but it was a different case in the second half as Maritzburg made a real fight of it and reduced the deficit through a Justice Figuaredo goal with 20 minutes to play.
The home team made a nervy start to the game when a poor back pass from Siyanda Xulu in the fifth minute was intercepted by Simon Murray, but fortunately for the Maritzburg skipper, the Wits striker fired wide.
It was proving a hard-fought and physical affair with the Clever Boys in particular on the receiving end of some rough stuff, and both Thabang Monare and Terrence Dzvukamanja had to be replaced in the first half after being injured.
Maritzburg's only real chance of the opening stanza came in the 25th minute when Fortune Makaringe combined well with Siphesihle Ndlovu, but missed the target with his parting shot.
Just when the KZN side were starting to find some rhythm in their game, they found themselves 1-0 down as the ball was given away cheaply before Hashim Domingo's shot-come-cross was deflected in for an own goal by Nazeer Allie, playing against his former club.
The lead was doubled right at the end of the first half when Buhle Mkhwanazi came storming into the box to power home a header from an Elias Pelembe corner.
Maritzburg started the second half in positive fashion and managed to carve out a chance on the hour mark after some neat interplay, but Darren Keet saved comfortably from Yannick Zakri.
The KZN Midlands side remained on the front foot and it took a brilliant sliding challenge from Wits defender Robyn Johannes to keep out Mohau Mokate's 68th minute shot, before Mokate had a header saved from the resultant corner.
And they got their reward soon after when Ndlovu's 71st minute shot was deflected into the path of Figuaredo for the Swaziland striker to fire in a stinging first-time effort past Keet.
The momentum was now firmly with Maritzburg, who backed by a lively home crowd, went pouring forward for the equaliser.
But it was, however, to be in vein as Wits did well to close out the last 15 minutes of the match without allowing the Pietermaritzburg team any clear chances at an equaliser, despite their best efforts.
African News Agency (ANA)