Ten-man Maritzburg United claimed a hard-fought 2-1 win over provincial rivals Royal Eagles at the Princess Magogo Stadium on Sunday to reach the last eight of the Nedbank Cup.
In a match which was also affected by inclement weather, the Team of Choice shrugged off a numerical disadvantage to overcome their National First Division opponents, thanks to goals from Deolin Mekoa and Siyanda Xulu.
Maritzburg looked the more fluent and confident team from early on and they nearly claimed the lead as early as the sixth minute, with Deolin Mekoa sending a shot from the edge of the penalty area against the upright.
On 18 minutes another swift Maritzburg attack put Mohau Mokate in on goal, but before the attacker could test goalkeeper Hugo Patrick Nyame, Philani Cele came across to make a vital challenge.
On the cusp of half time, the Team of Choice were reduced to 10 men when defender Bevan Fransman received his second yellow card for a reckless challenge and was sent off.
Yet rather than panic, Maritzburg responded by going ahead: Siphesihle Ndlovu showed some great skill in the penalty area before laying on an easy chance for Mekoa to score from close range in the third minute of added time.
Eagles looked to make the most of their numerical advantage in the second half, and on 57 minutes they almost claimed an equaliser through substitute Masibusane Zongo, but he was denied by a great reaction save from Richard Ofori.
The hosts were given a lifeline with just under 20 minutes of regulation time to play, as Siyanda Xulu was guilty of a clumsy foul in the 18-yard area to concede a penalty. Veteran Mame Niang converted the spot kick to make it 1-1 in the 72nd minute.
The match was suspended with about eight minutes of regulation time remaining due to inclement weather. Upon resumption – the better part of an hour after going off – Maritzburg reclaimed the lead in the 89th minute when Xulu scored with a glancing header from a corner kick.
The defender’s goal proved to be enough for United to advance into the last eight. They will learn their next opponent in Thursday’s quarterfinal draw.
Royal Eagles (0) 1 (Niang 72’)
Maritzburg United (1) 2 (Mekoa 45+3’, Xulu 89’)
Eagles: Nyame, Mosebo, Brown, Manganyi, Cele, Kubeka (Nkewana 75’), Mvelase, Niang, Sauls (Ngubo 55’), Nene, Mncube (Zongo 50’)
Maritzburg: Ofori, Sanoka, Fransman, Xulu, Thlone (Onyango 46’), Makaringe, Ndlovu (Kunene 90+7’), Shandu, Maboe, Mokate, Mekoa (De Reuck 90+6’)