The Team of Choice showed massive character to strike twice in dying stages of the game – a 76th minute equaliser by Fortune Makaringe, and a 92nd minute winner by Judas Moseamedi, after Usuthu had scored against the run of play just before half time at a packed Harry Gwala Stadium.
United had put in a scintillating performance, but after luck had eluded them, the three points seemed highly unlikely as the game moved towards its conclusion.
But Makaringe’s goal brought the roof off in the KZN Capital City, and from then on the home fans seemingly willed their team to victory.
“They came in their numbers,” said Tinkler. “Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Especially the way they celebrated after the equaliser, I think that just gave the players the extra energy to push on and get the second goal right at the death.”
Overall there were several positives for coach Eric to take:
“There was only really one team out there from my point of view,” he said. “It would have been a massive injustice had we lost the game. I thought the first half performance was exceptional – the chances we created, we should have come in at half time at least 1-0 up.
“Even after we conceded, the boys reacted positively. Ricochets off the post, goalkeeper makes a save, one-on-ones… nothing was going in. But they were doing the right things.”
The Team of Choice tactician revealed what he told the players in the changeroom, and also how two substitutes combined for the winning goal:
“At half time it was important to tell the players not to panic. To keep believing in the strategy that we planned for the game. Keep the tempo nice and high, because they were not dealing with our tempo.
“Our performance in the second half was good, and the only threat AmaZulu really caused us was on the counter, but I don’t think Richard really had to make a save in the second half.
“When that equalising goal went in, I was extremely happy. Then we just took a chance right at the death, bringing on Mohau (Mokate, who provided the assist for Moseamedi), changed the strategy slightly by playing the ball earlier into the box, because now we had the height, and it paid off.”