Baroka were looking to move above the relegation zone as they travelled to KwaZulu-Natal, on Friday night. The Limpopo-based outfit were unbeaten in their last four Premier Soccer League encounters and recently, claimed victory over SuperSport United and fellow relegation struggler’s Free State Stars.
Meanwhile, Maritzburg were looking to remain within the top eight. The Team of Choice came off a disappointing 2-0 loss to Orlando Pirates, on Tuesday night and were looking to return to winning ways on Friday evening.
Ahead of the clash, Maritzburg’s interim coach Fadlu Davids, was forced to shuffle his troops around in order to accommodate for the suspended duo of Deolin Mekoa and Brian Onyango, after they were given their marching orders against Pirates. However, Maritzburg welcomed back defender Kwanda Mngonyama to the heart of the Maritzburg backline.
On the side of Bakgaga, coach Milton Dlamini opted for continuity as he named an unchanged line up from the side that earned victory in midweek. Maritzburg knew that they would have to be wary of the dangerous Phineas Matlakala, who was on a rich vein of form in front of goal.
The wet conditions at the Harry Gwala Stadium made for an exciting, fast paced encounter and this benefited the Maritzburg attack, who began the game brightly. The pace and skill of captain Kurt Lentjies was proving a nuisance to the Baroka defence, on the night.
With 11 minutes on the clock, Maritzburg broke the deadlock through Mngonyama. The defender was left unmarked at the far post and made no mistake as he volleyed his effort home, past a stagnant Baroka keeper.
Baroka were mere spectators for most of the first half as Maritzburg dictated the play. In the 25th minute, the home side doubled their advantage. This time, Mohau Mokate was on hand as he headed the ball into an open net, after goalkeeper Oscarine Masuluke was caught in no man’s land.
Maritzburg were putting on a tantalising display of attacking football and if it wasn’t for some impressive last ditch defending, Maritzburg could have added to their advantage.
Nonetheless, despite Maritzburg being dominant in possession, Baroka had chances of their own. Maritzburg keeper Virgil Vries was forced into a fantastic save as he denied Marshall Munetsi’s dangerous header.
With half time approaching the chances dried up as the match became a cagier affair. Maritzburg looked content with their lead as they went into the half time interval.
Baroka went into the second half with a more positive approach as they looked to salvage something out of the encounter. Despite Baroka’s continuous pressure they struggled to break down a resolute Maritzburg defence.
Maritzburg’s lack of dominance in the second half was down to their shift in focus. The Pietermaritzburg- based side were far more defensive and this allowed Baroka to assert themselves a lot more in the encounter. In the 60th minute, Maritzburg’s complacency was punished after Mngonyama was adjudged to have brought down Baroka attacker Mpho Kgaswane, in the area. Substitute Jose Garcia stepped up and slotted his effort past Vries, narrowing the deficit.
Baroka were showing great character as they went in search of the equaliser. Garcia was looking menacing as Maritzburg’s defence were struggling to deal with his pace. With Baroka throwing everything at the United defence they were almost caught out by some stellar interplay. Maritzburg forward Mokate, had a glorious chance to kill off the game, but the 25-year-old failed to steer his effort goal wards from close range.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the encounter, Maritzburg sealed the three points. After Lentjies was brought down on the edge of the area, Fransman lashed home the resultant free kick.
Minutes later, substitute Andrea Fileccia had a chance to grab Maritzburg’s fourth, but the Belgian fluffed his shot with only the goalkeeper to beat. Nevertheless, Maritzburg held on as they claimed a valuable victory at home.