PIETERMARITZBURG - A second half blitzkrieg from Maritzburg United produced a game of two halves as the home side fought back for an optional time winner against Platinum Stars at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Friday night.
Two goals from Belgian bomber Andrea Fileccia in the final four minutes of this battle saw Maritzburg shoot up to second place in the Absa Premiership behind Mamelodi Sundowns.
The first half was dominated by Platinum’s strangulation defensive technique as they clung to an early goal with man to man shadowing.
For a struggling outfit Platinum Stars got a great start to the opening clash of the weekend when Riyaad Norodien smashed in a long range free-kick that left Ghana’s number one goalkeeper Richard Ofori clutching at air in the 13th minute. The goal allowed the visitors to get into defensive mode, and they stuck to their guns with 11 men behind the ball as they suffocated the home midfield.
In a second half turnaround Fileccia finished off a move with his right boot in the 89th minute and in optional time a penalty was slotted in by the same player to kill the game.
Earlier there were limited openings for Fileccia, winger Deolin Mekoa and the league’s Player of the Month for January, midfielder Siphesihle Ndlovu. A cross was dragged across goal by Mekoa and Fileccia had a penalty appeal ignored by referee Victor Gomes in the closest sniff of goal for the home side.
Platinum dug into their defensive trenches, aided in large measure by the calm presence of veteran defender Vuyo Mere and partners Ayanda Gcaba and Gift Sithole.
Despite gifting Maritzburg possession Platinum rode out the rest of the half comfortably in the lead. And that too after having been forced into an early first half substitution when Manti Mekoa limped off to be replaced by Enocent Mkhabela.
Desperate for a first win in eight outings, Platinum enjoyed consistency from their last match, a goalless clash with Supersport United, with coach Roger de Sa keeping the same team.
However, they ran out of steam in the second period as the Team of Choice rallied for the equaliser. The introduction of Mohau Mokate next to Fileccia added extra bite to the frontline and chances flew in from all angles as Platinum lost their defensive sparkle of the first half.
Luck smiled on them, however. Goalkeeper Dino Visser had a shot from Pogiso Sanoka squirm through his arms, onto the post and back into his gloves midway through the half. But Maritzburg made their own luck by persevering and Mokate won a penalty which was converted for victory.