Aces score important win

Mpumalanga Black Aces scored an important victory in their quest to avoid relegation from the Absa Premiership, as they beat Maritzburg United 2-1 at the Mbombela Stadium on Sunday.

Goals from Tendai Ndoro and Ofentse Nato sandwiched an equaliser from Orlando Smeekes as AmaZayoni moved to 20 points from 16 matches and opened up a four-point buffer to the relegation zone. The Team of Choice, now on 17 points from 18 matches, remain just one point above the danger zone.

Aces got off to the perfect start, with Zimbabwean striker Tendai Ndoro opening the scoring as early as the third minute. Mabhuti Khenyeza got on the end of a long pass and flicked his header into the path of Ndoro, who beat Shu-Aib Walters to the ball for his first goal in the Absa Premiership.

However, the home side’s lead was short lived as United equalised in the 12th minute through Orlando Smeekes. The heavily-tattooed attacker powered home a perfectly placed header from Delron Buckley’s cross to make it 1-1.

The heat of the afternoon meant a water-break was called for midway through the first half, and shortly thereafter Aces’ Ofentse Nato had a great chance to put his side ahead, only to pull his shot wide of the near post.

However, the Botswana international redeemed himself 10 minutes before the interval with a breath-taking goal. The ball fell kindly for him in the box from a free kick and he struck a sublime volley, on the turn, into the bottom corner of the net. Goalkeeper Walters stood no chance and it left AmaZayoni 2-1 up at the break.

The attacking fluency of the first half gave way to more prosaic football in the second, though Smeekes nearly scored a remarkable solo goal in the 65th minute, cutting inside from the left to beat two challenges only to see his attempt easily saved by Jackson Mabokgwane.

On 71 minutes a slick passing move from the visitors ended with the ball at the feet of substitute Dillon Sheppard in the penalty area, but he couldn’t get away a clean shot and Mabokgwane was able to make another comfortable save.

Maritzburg continued to look the likelier scorers up to the final whistle and they were finally given a lifeline 88 minutes in when a rash challenge from Nato on Terence Mandaza handed the away side a penalty. However, Bhongolwethu Jayiya’s spot kick was saved by Mabokgwane to seal a 2-1 win for Aces.

Black Aces (2) 2 (Ndoro 3’, Nato 35’)

Maritzburg United (1) 1 (Smeekes 12’)

Teams:

Black Aces: Mabokgwane, Mabaso, Mabizela, Nato, Ngalo, Qalinge, Zuke, Ngobeni, Zwane (Timm 66’), Ndoro (Tukane 86’), Khenyeza (Mulenga 83’)

Maritzburg United: Walters, Evans, Awal, M. Booysen, Cloete, Isaacks (Sheppard 66’), De Jongh, Morton, Buckley (Sekotlong 72’), Smeekes (Mandaza 69’), Jayiya