|Cheslyn Jampies and Deolin Makoa © Gallo Images
Maritzburg United claimed a dramatic 3-1 victory away to Jomo Cosmos at Olen Park Stadium on Saturday afternoon to secure their Absa Premiership survival and send their opponents back down to the National First Division.
Ezenkosi looked to be on course for a result which would secure their top flight status when a superb goal from Linda Mntambo put them ahead in the first half, but late strikes from the Team of Choice’s Mohau Mokate and Evans Rusike saw the visitors secure safety.
Cosmos’ loss, combined with the University of Pretoria’s victory over Golden Arrows, saw Jomo Sono’s side drop to last place on the log and suffer direct relegation.
United almost claimed the lead 16 minutes in when a corner kick from Sheldon Van Wyk saw Cosmos’ Mxolisi Mashumbu forced to clear off his own goal line.
Just over 10 minutes later it was Ezenkosi who claimed the lead though Linda Mntambo, who struck home a superb left-footed shot from outside the box which gave goalkeeper Virgil Vries no chance whatsoever.
United reacted to going behind by sending on attacking midfielder Gregory Maasdorp in place of defender Thamsanqa Teyise with just under 10 minutes of the first half left to play, but the interval saw the hosts still 1-0 up.
The Team of Choice made another change in attack at the start of the second half, sending on former Golden Arrows and Kaizer Chiefs player Abia Nale in place of promising youngster Sheldon Van Wyk, who was unable to assert himself in the match.
On 59 minutes Maritzburg almost equalised through Philani Zulu only for Sherwyn Naicker to make a brilliant save, before they were denied what looked to be a clear penalty for hand-ball in the 18-yard area by Thato Lingwati.
Cosmos looked to be in control of proceedings, but in the 82nd minute United’s determination was rewarded with a goal from substitute Mohau Mokate, who put a looping header over Naicker after the ball had ping-ponged around in the home side’s box to make it 1-1.
Just four minutes later Maritzburg’s comeback was completed by Evans Rusike, who arrived late the near post to touch home a right-flank cross from Abia Nale to make it 2-1 and put the KwaZulu-Natal team into safety after spending almost the whole season under threat of relegation.
Rusike added another goal deep into injury time when Cosmos were desperately throwing men forward in search of an equaliser, seeing the final score end 3-1 in favour of Maritzburg United.
Jomo Cosmos (1) 1 (Mntambo 27’)
Maritzburg United (0) 3 (Mokate 82’, Rusike 86’ 90+4’)
Cosmos: Naicker, Mngomezulu, Lingwati (Thompson 80’), Mthembu, Jampies, Monare, Mntambo, Machupu, Makgobela (Maluleke 64’), Zulu, Mashumba (Aka 76’)
United: Vries, Teyise (Maasdorp 36’ [Mokate 78’]), Mngonyama, Onyango, Mogapi, Van Wyk (Nale 46’), Mkhize, Booysen, P Zulu, D Mekoa, Rusike