Maritzburg United continued their fine recent form against Kaizer Chiefs with a 2-1 victory at the FNB Stadium on Saturday evening.
Maritzburg have now lost just one of their last eight Absa Premiership fixtures. It is the same scoreline they beat Chiefs in the Telkom Knockout earlier this season.
Judas Moseamedi was the chief tormentor on that occasion but this time around it was former Ajax Cape Town and Bidvest Wits midfielder Daylon Claasen, who grabbed a superb brace.
In three meetings between the sides this season, Maritzburg have won twice with the other game ending in a draw as the Team of Choice continue to be the Amakhosi’s hoodoo team.
Chiefs started on the front foot and Maritzburg had a scare when Maluleka’s diagonal was misread by Mxolisi Kunene, which allowed Samir Nurkovic in behind but his attempted cross in to the box for Leonardo Castro was snuffed out by Team of Choice shot-stopper Richard Ofori.
Soon after, Nazeer Allie’s miscued interception in trying to deal with Reeve Frosler’s cross in from the right-hand side meant Ofori had to be on his toes to divert the ball around the post.
Eric Tinkler’s side were getting plenty of numbers behind the ball and frustrating Chiefs who were pinging balls in to the box looking for the likes of Nurkovic and Castro to win flick-ons.
Indeed it was the aerial route that Chiefs were looking likeliest to break the deadlock and Nrukovic brought an excellent save out of Ofori from a Lebogang Manyama corner in the 26th minute.
Nurkovic came close once again in the 35th minute. Khama Billiat broke through the Maritzburg midfielder and fed the Serb striker on the left-hand side, who cut inside and unleashed a shot towards the bottom right-hand corner which looked destined for the back of the net but was brilliantly palmed away by the Ghanaian goal-minder.
Moseamedi had been a peripheral figure throughout with Chiefs dominating possession and Tinkler’s side resorting to the counter-attack as their only real form of offense.
Shortly before the half-time interval, Chiefs won a free-kick in Maritzburg territory on the right-hand side and Manyama whipped in a tantalising free-kick to the back post which was guided narrowly over the bar by Nurkovic.
Billiat was looking mightily impressive in his first start of 2020 especially on the break and fed in Nurkovic on one such occasion having turned Rushine de Reuck beautifully in midfield but the Amskhosi striker was guilty of cutting inside too predictably.
Manyama missed a sitter just after the hour mark after being fed in the box by Billiat, but his shot was straight at Ofori who saved with his legs.
Completely against the run of play, the Team of Choice took the lead in the 65th minute. Daylon Claasen grabbed his third goal of the season. Chiefs goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi was guilty of coming out of his box needlessly and fumbling the ball to Tebogo Tlolane, who crossed expertly for Claasen to volley home.
Soon after, things went from bad to worse for Ernst Middendorp’s side. Kutumela brilliantly volleyed Tlolane’s cross to the back post back in to the box for Claasen to head home for his brace.
After creating well over 10 attempts on goal, Chiefs finally found the back of the net in the 78th minute when Nurkovic headed past Ofori from a Manyama delivery to the near post.
However, the Team of Choice managed to hold on for the final 12 minutes and claim a crucial three points that strengthens their bid for a top eight finish.