Maritzburg United shot up the Absa Premiership standings when they battered Baroka FC 3-0 at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Friday evening.
Seven goals and two wins in two games was ample proof of the Midlands outfit’s return to form as they climbed six positions to fifth on the table.
Maritzburg made two changes to the side that started their last game, a 4-2 midweek win at Cape Town City. Striker Evans Rusike and utility player Siphesihle Ndlovu, who helped Maritzburg in the come-back win against City as second half substitutes, retained their places ahead of defender Denis Weidlich and midfielder Yazid Atouba.
It made for a slightly more attacking line-up as Rusike paired with Mohau Mokate in a twin frontline. The intent was clear from home coach Fadlu Davids, and the selection paid off as the Team of Choice enjoyed greater possession in the first half.
It reflected on the scoreline when Mokate combined with Rusike for the 31st minute opener. Zimbabwean Rusike collected Mokate’s pass, turned a defender and buried a shot past goalkeeper Virgil Vries.
It wasn’t one way traffic. For Baroka, midfielder Mpho Kgaswane had two early chances to give the visitors the lead but his first attempt was from a tight angle and the second he ballooned from the edge of the box.
Despite decent breaks, with playmaker Siphelele Ntshangase instrumental behind striker Robin Ngalande, Baroka lacked a cutting edge up front.
The early league pacesetters made four changes to the team that bombed 4-0 at Mamelodi Sundowns midweek, and lacked rhythm in the final third.
It got worse for the visitors after the break. Rusike doubled the score with his second of the match in the 56th minute, again capitalising from Mokate’s labour to curl in a shot from outside the box and making it a miserable return to the Midlands for former team-mate Vries.
The 2-0 lead put Maritzburg in a comfortable position and allowed midfielders Deolin Mekoa and Fortune Makaringe to further dominate the duel in the centre of the park. Their forays forward were helped by the overlapping runs of Ndlovu, who capped his outing with the third goal in the 66th minute, and his second of the week.
It was almost a one-sided affair thereafter. Maritzburg took the opportunity to give Belgian bench warmer Andrea Fileccia a rare appearance, and Cameroonian Atouba also got some game time.
Baroka pushed numbers forward but lacked fluidity against a home defence bolstered by the introduction of Kenyan international defender Brian Onyango.
The visitors slumped to their second defeat of the week without scoring.