DURBAN – Maritzburg United retained their Premier Soccer League status with a resounding victory over Royal Eagles at Chatsworth Stadium yesterday.
The Team of Choice required a point from their last two matches in the promotional/relegation play-offs against Eagles and Tshakhuma, whom they play in Maritzburg on Saturday (3pm).
Maritzburg finished 15th on the 16-team PSL log and were forced into the play-offs, where they have amassed three victories on the trot to ensure they will still be campaigning in the PSL next season.
Yesterday's game was delayed for 15 minutes because the goal nets were deemed to be sub-standard and had to be replaced.
Eagles were first to ask questions but Richard Ofori was up for the task for the Team of Choice as he kept Diego Brown at bay.
Nkosivumile Zulu used his strength to get the better of Brian Onyango and laid on an exquisite pass to Brown but Ghanaian Ofori made a comfortable save.
Brown again got into the right position but missed another sitter with his head after receiving a decent cross from Levy Mashiane.
Maritzburg couldn’t get any rhythm or momentum, losing plenty of possession in the final third.
Eagles were made to pay for a blunder at a critical time.
Three minutes from half-time, Victor Bakah made a sloppy pass when he tried to find Samuel Manganyi, but Siphesihle Ndlovu intercepted the ball and played a quick one-two with Bongokuhle Hlongwane before finishing with aplomb.
It was a lack of concentration at a critical stage for Eagles and Ndlovu showed great composure to beat Peter Nyame on his near post.
Maritzburg coach Eric Tinkler introduced Thabiso Kutumela immediately after half-time. It was a clear indication that he wanted to kill the game off. Hlongwane was not as effective as he has been for the Team of Choice in the past two matches.
Tinkler knew the home side were going to push more forward in search of an equaliser.
Ndlovu was menacing. He scored the first goal and created the second. He was fouled by Philani Cele and Kutumela stepped up to net a scorcher of a free-kick. It was a well-executed set piece for the Team of Choice, a strike worthy of deciding any football match.
The second goal came in the 73rd minute, and moments later Kutumela launched a rocket but his attempt sailed wide after spotting Nyame off his line.
Royal Eagles 0
Maritzburg United (1) 2@Minenhlecr7