Team of Choice edge Thwihli Thwahla in KZN derby

Maritzburg United snapped a five-game winless streak in the DStv Premiership with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Royal AM at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Wednesday evening.

Friday Samu's 22nd-minute goal settled this KZN derby as Ernst Middendorp's side pulled four points clear of the relegation zone in 12th place to rub more salt in the wounds of Thwihli Thwahla, who were knocked out of the Nedbank Cup by Mamelodi Sundowns in the semifinals at the weekend.

The hosts made a lively start as they looked to capitalise on any potential Nedbank Cup hangover from their provincial rivals.

Tawanda Macheke showed good industry to win the ball back in the opposition half on five minutes and advance into the area on the left before cutting back onto his right foot and getting off a shot that was comfortably saved by Patrick Nyame.

The Durban outfit had their first sniff at goal four minutes later from a corner when Mfundo Thikazi pulled his shot wide of the right post, but it was the home fans celebrating the opening goal which also arrived from a corner midway through the first half.

Samu scored for the second game in succession as he planted a header past Nyame from Keegan Ritchie's delivery to put Maritzburg ahead.

Genino Palace and Travis Graham had further chances to extend their lead in the closing stages of the first half, although neither was able to test Nyame, while Marcel Engelhardt preserved his team's one-goal advantage at the break with a fine save to deny Thikazi in the 44th minute.

Engelhardt was called into action again nine minutes after the restart to keep out a free-kick from Ndumiso Mabena before Samu drew a routine save out of Nyame on 56 minutes after latching onto a through-ball from Palace.

The action quickly switched to the other end as Tebogo Potsane made contact with Kabelo Mahlasela's cross to force a smart save out of Engelhardt in the 58th minute and Victor Letsoalo directed a header just over the crossbar from a free-kick on the hour mark.

The chances continued to come, with Letsoalo again going close as he steered a header narrowly wide of the left post from a 63rd-minute corner before Palace fired wide at the near post from an acute angle on the left two minutes later.

Thikazi found space for a shot from inside the box in the 80th minute, but saw the ball drift wide of the left post and Samu was denied a second goal when his header came back off the bar after getting on the end of an 82nd-minute free-kick.

Maritzburg survived a few more attempts from the visitors in their search for a late a equaliser to secure three valuable points in the fight for survival.

Maritzburg United (1) 1 (Samu 22')

Royal AM 0

Maritzburg United:M. Engelhardt, N. Lukhubeni, S. Pereira, C. Daniels, N. Allie, K. Ritchie, T. Graham, D. Claasen, F. Samu, G. Palace (L. Baloyi 84'), T. Macheke (A. Soukouna 74').

Royal AM:P. Nyame, S. Msomi, L. Manganyi, S. Mabuza (T. Lingwati 7'), M. Mogaila (M. Masuku 82'), K. Mahlasela, G. Mashikinya (S. George 82'), S. Matjila (V. Letsoalo 46'), T. Potsane (J. Ncobeni 82'), N. Mabena, M. Thikazi.