The Team of Choice scored after 26 minutes through Thabiso Kutumela to claim a 1-0 win at a rocking Harry Gwala Stadium.
However, they did not go on to take control of the match after that, and there were some nervy moments, especially in the second half, before the three valuable Absa Premiership points were wrapped up.
It was always going to be tough though against a physical Usuthu team desperate to move up the table, and while Maritzburg lacked their usual fluency in attack, there were some outstanding defensive contributions.
“I don’t think it was a great football match, from either side. In the half we created a couple of situations, a couple of combinations that lead to one or two half chances for us,” coach Eric explained.
“We spoke about the importance of starting the game positively with a high intensity. Looking to try and press them and get in behind and penetrate and score a nice early goal, which we haven’t achieved this season.
“But we didn’t really do that in the first 15, 20 minute period. We eventually did manage to get a goal from good combination play, a good ball into the box - far post, Kutumela scores.
“But after that we disappeared, we stopped playing. AmaZulu were looking to play the long ball, in behind, out wide, but I though we dealt with it fairly well first half,” he continued.
“I explained to the players, we needed to play more, to put the ball down on the ground and play to our strengths…In our build up phase there was too much distance between our defence and our strikers. We needed to come into the spaces more, but we didn’t do that.
“Second half, was probably our worst performance this season to be brutally honest. We didn’t look like a team confident enough to play through the phases, get in the wide areas, put in crosses and turn the defence.
“We just kept looking to defend and we had to soak up a hell of a lot of pressure second half. Fortunately we dealt with that – with the long ball, with the second ball. So defensively I can be very happy, but going forward I don’t think we were good.”
The coach was of course pleased to claim the points.
“Obviously I’m very happy with the win – it takes us to 26 points – we want to create that gap between us and the ones below us, and start looking at the teams above us. The result was more important than anything else, getting the win was extremely important.”
It was also another positive result at home on a Friday night, and Team of Choice midfielder Keegan Buchanan expressed his gratitude towards the United faithful, the Blue Army:
“All the glory must go to the supporters – without them we wouldn’t be where we are. They create the atmosphere and that helps us put in the hard work and follow the coach’s game-plan.
“We’re proud of our record (at home) and we just have to make sure we maintain it as long as possible.”
Maritzburg’s next game is away to Baroka FC on Sunday 26 January.
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