DURBAN – Rain and a gutsy Polokwane City failed to dampen Maritzburg United’s spirits as they won 2-1 at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Friday night to climb to third in the Absa Premiership.
The Team of Choice scored via Pogiso Sanoka in the first half and Siphesihle Ndlovu in the second to overtake Free State Stars for third place, behind Orlando Pirates and log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns.
The home side were fortunate not to be punished early when the league’s top scorer, Rodney Ramagalela, teed up Puleng Tlolane who blazed his shot over from inside the box in the opening minute.
Maritzburg made them pay. Deolin Mekoa’s inswinging corner puzzled Polokwane as Maritzburg fired three attempts before the fourth landed in the net for a seventh minute lead via the boot of defender Sanoka.
Thereafter the rains made for slippery stuff and one late tackle resulted in an early forced change for the Team of Choice.
Malawian forward Muhammad Sulumba tripped Maritzburg defender Brian Onyango who was carried off and replaced by Rushine De Reuck. It was a rare start for the Kenyan international, who got to play because of suspension to veteran defender Bevan Fransman.
Maritzburg might have added another goal were it not for a block by goalkeeper George Chigova off striker Andrea Fileccia’s drive.
Polokwane grew into game but were limited to shots from range, with Tlolane the main culprit as he fired high and wide from various angles. His accuracy improved after the interval with two attempts straight to goalkeeper Richard Ofori. The Ghanaian international also welcomed a stinging effort from Ramagalela into his gloves as the visitors opened the half purposefully.
Coming into the game unbeaten in seven league outings – six draws and a win – Polokwane lived up to that form as they took the game to Maritzburg in search of an equaliser.
It meant they left gaps at the back. That made for end to end action and Maritzburg were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the 54th minute. Instead referee Eketsang Setloboko gave winger Mekoa a yellow card for diving.
The open play was lapped up by the crowd huddled under the main grandstand as a cold front enveloped the Midlands.
The conditions were more conducive for a swimming meet as the rain bucketed onto the already sodden pitch.
With the pitch rendered into patches by the downpour, Maritzburg struggled to produce their usual pacey passing patterns. Route one it was and that led to the insurance goal in the 75th minute. Ofori’s punt was collected at the other end and guided in by midfielder Ndlovu.
A late tap in by Sulumba gave Polokwane hope of rising back into the game but time didn’t allow the visitors to shine as Maritzburg stood resolute in defence for the win.