Not many teams can claim to have prevented Mamelodi Sundowns from taking a shot at goal for an entire half but Ernst Middendorp got his tactics right and defensive line on high alert as Maritzburg United managed to keep Sundowns at bay in the opening half even though they themselves did not manage to trouble Reyaad Pieterse’s goal.
But the half-time team talk from Sundowns coaches seemingly inspired the Brazilians as they came out looking a better side and won their DStv Premiership clash 1-0 on Wednesday.
The first real effort came from a counter-attack by Downs instigated by Themba Zwane, who found Pavol Safranko, who burst with pace, surging into Marcel Engelhardt’s goal but the German goalie was up to the task as he palmed the ball into touch.
As it has been said so many times this season – cometh the hour, cometh the man, and that man is often Peter Shalulile. The Namibian striker was found by a quality long ball from the left foot of Neo Maema, and Shalulile connected with a volley, beating Engelhardt to reach half-a-dozen goals in the league this season.
There was not much action in the first stanza except when Grant Kekana and Travis Graham collided twice with the first being a concerning head collision in the 20th minute. The duo were vying for an aerial ball and Kekana hit Graham at the back of his head before bumping into each other again eight minutes later.
This time around, Kekana elbowed Graham and on his way down, the Maritzburg player landed his boot at the back of Sundowns defender’s neck. However, Kekana soldiered on but Graham was withdrawn at the interval and Lifa Hlongwane came on in his place.
Hlongwane took a while to get into the groove and once he got going, he came close to ending Masandawana’s record of not conceding a goal this season in the league. The 28-year-old forward did well to create some space for himself in front of an organized Sundowns defence and he unleashed a shot that forced a full stretch from Pieterse around the hour mark. However, Hlongwane’s effort went narrowly wide of the mark.
In the other results of the day, Cape Town City beat Chippa United 1-0 while the tie between AmaZulu and Marumo Gallants was abandoned and is scheduled to take place on Thursday at the King Zwelithini Stadium in the afternoon.