DURBAN – Maritzburg United completed a remarkable escape act under the guidance coach Eric Tinkler when they won the PSL promotion-relegation playoffs after beating Royal Eagles 2-0 at the Chatsworth Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
The KZN Midlands club had spent a large part of the 2018/19 campaign marooned at the foot of the Premiership table, and had been through two coaches – Fadlu Davids and Muhsin Ertugral – before Tinkler took the job.
And after Tinkler’s arrival at the end of January, the 2018 Nedbank Cup finalists’ fortunes gradually improved, and three wins and a draw in their last six league matches enabled them to end the regular season in 15th spot and go into the playoffs – rather than be dealt the automation demotion, which was Free State Stars’ fate.
Not too many PSL clubs have survived previous playoffs, but the Team of Choice seemingly made light work of it.
Wednesday’s match was their third successive playoff win, making Saturday’s final game against Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) at the Harry Gwala Stadium a dead rubber as both Eagles and TTM have only three points.
Eagles knew they had no choice but to record a victory at Chatsworth if they were to keep their faint promotion hopes alive, and it was no surprise that the home side made most of the early running.
But with the visitors happy to sit back and soak up the pressure, clear-cut chances in the opening half an hour were limited to a Diego Brown shot from 20 metres, which was saved by Richard Ofori, and a Brown header, which flew over the bar from close range when he should probably rather have gone for the volley.
The Pietermaritzburg side had a couple of moments on the counter-attack, but never really threatened.
That was until three minutes before the interval when Siphesihle Ndlovu won possession near the halfway line, before sprinting clear down the left flank, playing a one-two with Fortune Makaringe and then finishing neatly at the near post.
With Eagles appearing to have had the wind taken out of their wings, Maritzburg looked comfortable after the break, and could have extended their lead had Ndlovu or Judas Moseamedi been more clinical with early second-half chances.
Moseamedi also had a goal correctly ruled offside, before Thabiso Kutumela made quite sure of the Team of Choice’s place in the top-flight next season when he curled a 74th-minute free kick past Patrick Nyame into the net.
From there on in, it was cruise control for Maritzburg, who missed a few late chances to add a third, with Tinkler finally able to relax – for the first time since he joined the club four months ago.
African News Agency (ANA)