WITBANK – Maritzburg United's fall from grace was compounded at the Puma Rugby Stadium on Sunday afternoon, when last year's beaten Nedbank Cup finalists lost 5-4 on penalties to National First Division (NFD) side Witbank Spurs, their last-32 encounter having ended 2-2 after extra time.
Shakes Mashaba's Spurs side led the game twice – first through Joshua Sauls and then Khethukuthula Zwane, but the Premier League side were indebted to Yannick Zakri as his brace ensured the match went to extra time and later penalties.
Maritzburg had the first chance of the game when Mxolisi Kunene picked the ball up from a short corner in the 10th minute before beating a man and pulling the trigger, but his effort was off target.
Instead, the visitors were to find themselves behind five minutes later, when Bonginkosi Nkosi's cross was turned into the net by Sauls.
Spurs' lead was short-lived, however, as Maritzburg equalised on 20 minutes when Zakri was left with a simple tap-in after a mistake in the home defence.
Instead of letting the setback get them down though, the NFD club hit back and were ahead for the second time on the afternoon just three minutes later as Zwane's header flew into the top corner.
Maritzburg had an opportunity to level things up 10 minutes before the break when Bandile Shandu played in Kutumela, but the former Orlando Pirates striker fired over the bar.
After Fortune Makaringe had squandered an early second half chance for the visitors, the Pietermaritzburg side were to draw level for the second time when Zakri found the net again, this time with a well-taken header in the 66th minute.
The Team of Choice almost won the tie in regulation time when Zakri played in Makaringe, but the latter was unlucky to see his 88th minute shot coming back off the post.
The KZN outfit continued to carve out chances in the first half of extra time as Pogiso Sanoka had a shot cleared off the line before the same player struck the post with a header after a Kunene free kick.
The Mpumalanga club had a chance seven minutes from the end of extra time when Slovo Mrawu let fly from distance, but United keeper Bongani Mpandle made the save to ensure the tie went to penalties.
Sihle Gum was to miss his spot kick for Spurs, but with Rushine De Reuck and new signing Miguel Timm both failing to hit the net for the visiting team, Spurs were able to book their spot in the last-16.
African News Agency (ANA)