PIETERMARITZBURG – A red card, a plethora of yellows and a brawl settled a lively Absa Premiership KwaZulu-Natal derby 2-0 in favour of Maritzburg United against AmaZulu in the provincial capital on Friday night.
Midfielders Bandile Shandu and Siphesihle Ndlovu got the goals which lifted Maritzburg two places up to fourth in the standings, ahead of Kaizer Chiefs and Cape Town City on goal difference.
After a sombre moment of paying their respects to deceased Polokwane City defender Mogau Tshehla with a minute’s silence before the match, the clash got off to a cracker.
Belgian forward Andrea Fileccia steered an effort on target in the first minute for home side Maritzburg, but it lacked power to trouble goalkeeper Siyabonga Mbatha.
Looking for a third goal in two outings, Fileccia was the main man in the Maritzburg attack with his breaks on the left flank.
Much of the action started on that side for the home outfit.
Fileccia drew the AmaZulu defence to the left like a magnet, and Usuthu got sucker-punched with a counter strike on the right for the opening goal five minutes before the break.
Maritzburg turned on the heat on a hot and humid night in the KwaZulu-Natal capital with their pacy passing play, which resulted in visiting hard men Butholezwe Ncube and Samuel Darpoh seeing yellow cards in the opening period.
The pressure took its toll when Fileccia lobbed the ball towards the right, where Deolin Mekoa and Lebohang Maboe combined for Shandu to side foot his team into the lead.
It was two-way traffic until then with veteran forward Siyabonga Nomvethe, Siyethemba Mnguni and Ovidy Karuru seeing decent opportunities fall the way of the Durban team.
Maritzburg defender Bevan Fransman was also booked during a period of dominance by the men in green.
The return to league duty after the last-32 stage of the Nedbank Cup brought back most of the regulars to the first team, among them Mekoa and Shandu, as the Team of Choice sought to register a first home win in three appearances at Harry Gwala Stadium.
AmaZulu, unbeaten in six league and cup games, upped the tempo after the break, but were made to sweat for openings by Maritzburg who comfortably put on several layers of defence, starting with the front men and the midfielders.
The hard graft paid off somewhat when Ncube was booked for the second time and ejected for a clumsy tackle on Siphesihle Ndlovu midway through the second half.
It gave Maritzburg a one-man advantage, but led to AmaZulu going for broke as they threw everything into attack in search of an equaliser.
However, Ndlovu finished off a break-away run with a sliding tap in for the insurance goal in optional time.