8 March 2009

Maritzburg United needed extra time before emerging 3-2 winners over Thanda Royal Zulu in a thrilling Nedbank Cup last 32 fixture at the Woodburn Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Team of Choice had raced into a two goal lead inside the first half of regulation time thanks to strikes from Fanyana Dhladhla and Fadlu Davids, but Amabhubesi pulled it back to 2-2 and ensured the game needed an extra 30 minutes with goals from Nkosinathi Nhleko and Clifford Mulenga.

Maritzburg got off to a flying start when Dhladhla moved well into some space before unleashing a terrific 20 metre shot that rocketed into the top corner, giving the Thanda goalkeeper no chance and handing the hosts the advantage.

There was little to choose between the two relegation threatened Absa Premiership sides, though United did look more fluent in the final third of the field than their KwaZulu-Natal rivals.

And Gordon Igesund side’s duly extended their lead just past the half hour mark when Fadlu Davids rose above the defence and met a cross from the right flank, directing the ball into the back of the net with a powerful downward header.

But if the Team of Choice thought they had all but secured their place in the next round, they were soon brought back to earth when Nhleko scored a terrific goal to halve the deficit.

The former Bafana Bafana striker picked up the ball on the corner of the penalty area and worked some space before turning and firing a great shot that curled inside the far post.

The score stayed 2-1 in favour of Maritzburg until late in the regulation 90 minutes when Mulenga capitalised on a poor back-pass and raced free to slide the ball past Michael Babale and level the game.

The contest went into extra time but just as at the start of the game, United immediately took control when Aka grabbed his team’s third goal inside the opening few minutes. The Ivorian provided a great finish as he flicked on a free kick that nestled in the bottom corner of the net.

Amabhubesi pushed hard for an equaliser in what time they had left, but the United defence held firm with relative ease to secure their spot in the last 16.