The Team of Choice bounced back from conceding an early goal to take the match to extra time and then penalties, after the scores had been locked at 1-1 at the end of 120 minutes of an absorbing encounter in the KwaZulu-Natal Capital.
The hosts then held their nerve to win the shoot-out 4-3, with Bongani Mpandle making one save and Gabriel Nyoni netting the decider. Also scoring from the spot were Siyanda Xulu, Pogiso Sanoka and Yusuf Jappie as United's spot in the TKO semi-finals was confirmed.
“We knew it was going to be an extremely tough game, but I’m very proud of the boys. The effort they put in was really, really massive,” head coach Eric Tinkler said after the match.
“We said they’re a very hard working team, probably the hardest working team in the league are Highlands Park, very, very aggressive.”
The Maritzburg tactician felt his men could have offered a bit more up front, but could not fault the intensity and desire they exhibited.
“I thought in the first half we were very good. I thought the Highlands goal came against the run of play. We created a few chances but our final pass let us down, our decision making in the final third was not there.
“We spoke about improving that at half time, and the boys responded well. We came back - yeah it was an own goal - but you’ve got to put the ball in [the box] in order for that to happen and we did that.
“We kept knocking on the door and I thought we seemed to want it a bit more than them. Even in the second half and in extra time, the ascendancy was always with us.
“Overall, fantastic, ultimately I think we deserved to go through. We were missing some of the fine details (in terms of the attacking). But we defended very well, we knew they were going to play the long ball, set-pieces, that came.
“I thought they were a little bit fortunate for the goal, Bongani [Mpandle] comes out for the punch, he’s on the ground, they win the header and it loops in, I don’t even think the boy thought he scored.
“But that’s football, we accept it, happy to get through, we’re in the semis, and now we start focussing on Pirates on Tuesday.”
Maritzburg United’s Absa Premiership clash with the Buccaneers takes place at the Orlando Stadium on Tuesday, 5 November, 7-30pm kick off.