Bandile Shandu made sure Maritzburg United took home all three points against Free State Stars. Photo: BackpagePix

BETHLEHEM – Maritzburg United moved within touching distance of the top four with a 3-0 Premiership victory over high-riding Free State Stars in sweltering, uncomfortable conditions at Goble Park on Saturday afternoon.

The central Free State team, who were on an encouraging run of form under the mentorship of Belgian coach Luc Eymael, squandered a golden opportunity to draw level at the top of the table with leaders Mamelodi Sundowns or become the first team this season to rake up five consecutive victories.

After a goalless first half in which the hosts had looked more purposeful and threatening, but were wasteful in front of goal, the Midlands side seized control of the match in the second period and were full value for a priceless away win at avenue that has traditionally become a graveyard for visiting teams.

United needed time to settle down, re-organise their defence and restore their shape and rhythm when they lost key defender Bevan Fransman as early as the seventh minute due to a head injury and spent much of the first 40 in their own half.

The visitors broke the deadlock within two minutes of the halftime break when the Belgian striker Andrea Fillecia latched onto a well-directed cross into the danger area, and drove in at the far post to set Ea Lla Koto straight onto the back foot.

Evans Rusike, who looked threatening in the first period but for some aimless, poor finishing and misdirected shots on goal, eventually found his radar in the 59th minute, to extend the visitors’ lead.

The introduction by United coach Fadlu Davids of Bandile Shandu up front to replace a tiring Fillecia in the 66th minute, proved to be an inspired substitution and he put the result beyond doubt three minutes from the end of regulation time with a superb strike.

African News Agency 

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