Maritzburg United edge KZN derby

Maritzburg United claimed a hard-fought 1-0 win over KwaZulu-Natal derby rivals AmaZulu in an Absa Premiership match at Harry Gwala Stadium on Friday night.

The result, secured by a goal from Thabiso Kutumela and a great defensive performance, sees the Team of Choice rise to sixth place on the log, while Usuthu remain in 14th spot and just one point above the relegation zone.

Maritzburg enjoyed early dominance and tested out Siyabonga Mbatha in the opening quarter hour, with the goalkeeper making his first appearance for AmaZulu since November last year. He had some nervy moments, but managed to keep the hosts at bay initially.

However, United claimed the lead on 27 minutes. Mbatha did well to palm away a low shot-cross from Kunene but the loose ball in the penalty area fell kindly for Thabiso Kutumela, who showed impressive composure to fire home from a tight angle and make it 1-0 in favour of the hosts.

Maritzburg thought they had doubled their lead late in the first half when Kutumela ran onto another loose ball after what appeared to be a slip from Phumlani Gumede and finished past Mbatha, but the goal was correctly disallowed for a foul on the defender.

The halftime score was 1-0 in favour of the Team of Choice. Usuthu had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down 10 minutes into the second half, with Bonginkosi Ntuli seemingly brought down by Rushine De Reuk and Nazeer Allie, only for the incident to be ignored by the referee.

The team in green bossed possession through the second half and forced Maritzburg onto the back foot, but they also struggled to create clear-cut chances against a well-organised and rugged defence which kept Ntuli and debutant Milos Lacny under wraps.

By the time United had replaced Kutumela with Miguel Timm to shore up the midfield it was clear that they were looking to defend their narrow lead, but they proved more than capable of holding the visitors at bay to claim all three points.

The teams will return to Premiership action next weekend, with AmaZulu away to Orlando Pirates on January 25 and Maritzburg visiting Baroka the following day.

Maritzburg United (1) 1 (Kutumela 27’)

AmaZulu 0

Maritzburg: Ofori, Kunene (Augusto 90+2’), Sanoka, Nyoni (Shandu 68’), De Reuck, Allie, Buchanan, Claasen, Morgan, Kutumela (Timm 81’), Moseamedi

AmaZulu: S. Mbatha, Darpoh, Mabiliso, P. Gumede, Booysen, Ncube, Magaqa (Ncobeni 62’), Sithebe, Lacny, Chawapihwa (Sikhakhane 70’), Ntuli (Majoro 75’)