The football gods shine again on Team of Choice

2015-03-16 00:00

THE football gods are shining on ­Maritzburg United once more. That was the reaction of coach Steve Komphela as he witnessed his side beat Platinum Stars 2-1 in a PSL clash at a scorching hot Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg yesterday.

There was more late drama following the Team of Choice’s 1-0 win over Kaizer Chiefs in midweek, and again it was a substitute who would make the difference. Mohau Mokate pounced on some super work from man-of-the-match Kurt Lentjies down the right hand side to tap in the winner in the 90th minute.

United were ahead for an hour after Deolin Mekoa had given them the lead with a well taken finish in the 28th minute, but it appeared that Stars had rescued a point when they scored in the 87th minute through Ndumiso Mabena.

Komphela had rewarded the men who did the business against Chiefs, naming an unchanged 11. It immediately seemed the right call as United began to boss the first half.

Central midfielder Ryan de Jongh saw his rocketed effort from miles away acrobatically saved by Stars keeper Kabelo Dambe on 11 minutes, and Lentjies would draw another save out of the shot-stopper just three minutes later with a powerful header.

The away side were oozing confidence, playing quick moving football with Lentjies again the orchestrator. It was no surprise when they went 1-0 up. Mohammed Anas, who had another impressive display as the lone striker, dropped off the defence to collect a ball. He held it up and slotted in Mekoa, who had manufactured some space for himself. The left winger’s first touch was what made the goal as he opened up his body and slotted the ball into the left corner.

United should have avoided the nerves that would follow with five minutes to go until the break. This time Mekoa turned provider — his brilliant run down the left seeing him square the ball across the face of goal. Mondli Cele was arriving at pace, but the right winger could not control his shot as the ball flew over the crossbar from close range.

It was in the second half that Stars began to look more threatening. It was hard to tell whether it was due to an ­improvement on their side or a false sense of comfort that came over ­Maritzburg. But United certainly were more reserved, looking to waste time as early as the 70th minute.

Eleazar Rodgers was a continuous ­aerial threat up front for Stars, and he came close in the 73rd and 93rd minutes to grabbing his side an equaliser via his head.

But Stars would have their joy through Mabena, who scored from close range with just over two minutes of normal time remaining to sink Maritzburg.

Komphela acknowledged afterwards that he had accepted a point at that stage, but his soldiers were not done yet.

A superb moment of individual brilliance from Lentjies saw him dribble the ball down the right hands byline before cutting in towards goal. His pass found an open Mokate, who had the goal at his mercy before obliging to send the Maritzburg bench delirious for the second time in five days.

“It is a good feeling; it wasn’t easy,” Komphela said afterwards. “When we got our opportunity at the end I realised that now the gods are with us.”

The win sees Maritzburg move back into the top eight ahead of SuperSport United, though both sides have 30 points. That is a statistic that make this clash between the two sides at Harry Gwala Stadium on April 4 a massive one.

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