Lentjies earns Maritzburg vital point

Maritzburg United fought back from being both a goal and a man down to secure a 1-1 draw away to Golden Arrows in an Absa Premiership clash at the Princess Magogo Stadium on Wednesday evening.

The Team of Choice, who scored via Kurt Lentjies to cancel out Nkanyiso Cele’s opener, remain at the bottom of the log, but the result brings them to within three points of nearest rivals Jomo Cosmos. With five rounds of the season still to play, Maritzburg are far from dead and buried.

Abafana Bes’thende, meanwhile, remain in 11th place on the log, now four points adrift of a place in the top half.

Maritzburg were the first to properly threaten a goal, with Philani Zulu shooting on target from long range in the 10th minute. His effort was half saved by Max Mbaeva, with the ball squirming out of his grasp and rolling just wide of the post.

Six minutes later Arrows were awarded a penalty after goalkeeper Tawfeeq Salie brought down Nduduzo Sibiya in the 18-yard box. Nkanyiso Cele took the spot kick and coolly converted to make it 1-0 to the hosts.

The Team of Choice almost came up with an equaliser late in the first half when Thamsanqa Teyise flicked on from a free kick, but his effort was well saved by Mbaeva to ensure the hosts went into the break with their lead intact.

United were dealt a major blow on the stroke of half time when Deolin Mekoa was shown a straight red card – seemingly for abusive language toward referee Zolile Mthetho – reducing them to 10 men.

Maritzburg coach Ernst Middendorp responded by making two changes at the start of the second half, throwing on Pogiso Sanoka and Sheldon van Wyk in place of Bandile Shandu and Mohau Mokate.

United almost came up with an equaliser in the 56th minute through defender Brian Onyango, who got up highest at a corner kick to meet the ball but saw his header bounce away to safety off the top of the crossbar.

The visitors were finally rewarded for their endeavour in the 71st minute when Evans Rusike’s pass gave Kurt Lentjies a sight of goal: the midfielder made it 1-1 with a precisely-placed low shot which went in off the inside of the far post.

Despite having just 10 men, United continued to look the better team as the match wore on and missed out on several opportunities to score a second goal and claim what would have been a heroic victory.

Golden Arrows (1) 1 (N Cele 18’ pen)
Maritzburg United (0) 1 (Lentjies 71’)

Arrows: Mbaeva, Katjiukua, Sikhakhane, Mathiane, S Dube, Hlongwane (Mhango 69’), N Cele, Shitolo, Sibiya (Molefe 63’), Ramagalela, Sibeko (Ngcobo 75’)

Maritzburg: Salie, Mngonyama, Mogapi, Onyango, P Zulu, Teyise, Shandu (Sanoka 46’), Mokate (van Wyk 46’), D Mekoa, Lentjies, Rusike