Absa Premiership

Maritzburg fight back to hold Stars

 Evans Rusike (Getty)
Evans Rusike (Getty)
Maritzburg - Evans Rusike scored a late goal to see Maritzburg United salvage a 1-1 draw against Platinum Stars in an Absa Premiership clash at Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday night.
 
Robert Ng’ambi had put Dikwena on course for three points, but the Team of Choice fought back to claim  share of the spoils – though they remain without a home win in the league this season.
 
The first half was a cagey affair, with neither side really able to create clear scoring chances. Stars were the first to threaten, with Eleazar Rodgers heading over from a corner kick, while Masibusane Zongo excited the crowd with his skills and trickery.
 
For Maritzburg, Philani Zulu was an energetic attacking outlet down the left flank, but too often he wasted good attacking opportunities with wild efforts at goal which were no bother for Dikwena’s ‘keeper Mbongeni Mzimela.
 
The first half finished goalless and was characterised by niggly fouls, with both teams struggling to keep possession and build any rhythm to their play.
 
The opening minutes of the second half saw a big improvement from the home side, with the introduction of debutant Ryan Moon providing a spark which saw them lift their game. The youngster forced Stars’ Mzimela into a sharp save with a snap shot from the edge of the box on 53 minutes.
 
Shortly thereafter Mzimela made a fantastic double save to keep out close-range efforts from Evans Rusike and Moon, though both United attackers will feel they should have found the back of the net and given the goalkeeper no chance.
 
However, after weathering that storm from the home side, Stars took control of the game and broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute. Siyabonga Zulu was the architect, providing a fine pull-back from the left flank which allowed Robert Ng’ambi to arrive late in the danger area fire home a right-footed shot.
 
United almost came up with a quick reply through Deolin Mekoa, who hit a powerful half-volley on target but watched in disbelief as Mzimela got his fingertips to the ball and deflected it just wide of the target for a corner kick.
 
However, the Stars ‘keeper was helpless to prevent an equaliser in the 81st minute – Kurt Lentjies provided a cross from the right flank and Rusike directed the ball into the back of the net with a beautifully executed header, 1-1.
 
United had momentum behind them for the final minutes of the game and pushed hard to claim a winner, but the visitors were able to hold out and ensure the match finished in a stalemate. Stars also finished the game with 10 men following a red card for substitute Ndumiso Mabena in injury time.