The match could have been a far more comfortable win for Maritzburg had they taken their chances. Photo: @MaritzburgUtd on twitter

PIETERMARITZBURG – Maritzburg United made hard work of it against Chippa United at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Friday night before emerging 1-0 winners in an exciting league encounter.

It could have been a far more comfortable win for Eric Tinkler's men had they taken their chances, but in the end Thabiso Kutumela’s goal three minutes before half time was enough to secure the three points, despite a fight-back from the Chilli Boys in the second stanza.

Maritzburg started brightly, playing some free-flowing passing football, and had a couple of early chances as Mxolisi Kunene headed straight at goalkeeper Patrick Tingyemb before Kutumela pulled a shot wide.

Then with 17 minutes gone, the home side were handed a golden opportunity to take the lead after Kunene was brought down in the box by Thabo Rakhale and a penalty was awarded.

But Jeremy Brockie, on debut for the Team of Choice, was unable to score as his low kick was well saved by Tingyemb.

Chippa had done little to threaten the home defence, but nearly scored against the run of play just moments later when William Twala's sweetly-struck half volley thundered into the crossbar.

But there was only one team in it in the first half as Maritzburg continued to dominate proceedings and more chances followed, but luck, however, eluded them as Tingyemb made a superb reflex save to deny Brockie once more, before also making an excellent save to keep out a Bandile Shandu effort, with the rebound narrowly eluding Kutumela.

The KwaZulu-Natal side then came even closer when Kunene's powerful drive from just outside the box dipped and swerved towards the top corner, only to come back off the woodwork.

But just when it looked like the hosts wouldn't score in the first half, Kutumela popped up in the 42nd minute to latch onto a loose ball 20-yards out, before curling a low shot past Tingyemb and into the net.

The second half was to be far more evenly balanced as the Chilli Boys stepped their game up several gears as they looked to try and get back into the contest.

For their part Maritzburg needed a second goal and it should have come on the hour mark when Tingyemb parried a stinging shot from Kunene into Kutumela's path, but from right on the penalty spot he lifted his effort over the goal.

At the other end, the visitors were looking more of a threat in attack as proceedings wore on, and chances followed as Twala had a volley blocked before Rhulani Manzini fired just wide from a tight angle with 20 minutes to  play.

Manzini also sent a header off the target in the 82nd minute and struck a free kick over the bar shortly after, with the home team having to defend with their backs to the wall in an anxiety-filled final few minutes of the game. 

African News Agency (ANA)