Maritzburg United mounted a late comeback to defeat Highlands Park 2-1 in a Telkom Knockout last 16 clash at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday night.
The Team of Choice trailed throughout the second half until goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation time from Sphesihle Ndlovu and Mohau Mokate to see them overcome the Lions of the North and advance into the quarterfinals.
The first chance of the match went the way of Maritzburg in the 13th minute, as Bandile Shandu did well to open up space for Mxolisi Kunene to shoot on goal, but the winger’s attempt went straight to Highlands goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini.
Highlands generally looked to play the aerial game, with crosses from out wide for forwards Moeketsi Sekola and Peter Shalulile, but United goalkeeper Bongani Mpandle was solid in his handling and responded well to the pressure put on him.
Kunene continued to look dangerous for the Team of Choice and in the 26th minute he drove forward and unleashed a powerful drive which went just over the crossbar, while just after the half hour mark it was Mohau Mokate who went clean through on goal but dragged his shot wide of the mark.
Highlands’ first clear chance arrived in the 36th minute, with Mpandle saving in a one-one-one situation with Sekola. However, just six minutes later, the former Free State Stars striker got the better of the ‘keeper with a low drive to make it 1-0 in favour of the Lions of the North, capitalising on a loss of possession in the middle of the park from the hosts.
The first goal conceded by Maritzburg since mid-August saw Highlands ahead at the interval, while the question for the second half was whether the hosts could finally find the back of the net in front of their home fans, having failed to score in five games in Pietermaritzburg across all competitions in 2018/19.
The hosts made a change at the start of the second half by introducing Justice Figareido, but it was Highlands who nearly added to their advantage in the early moments, with Lindokuhle Mbatha’s curling effort palmed away by Mpandle.
The teams traded blows through the second half but the match looked set to end 1-0 in favour of the visitors. However, with just 10 minutes of regulation time remaining, substitute Yannick Zakri played a great reverse ball to tee up Sphesihle Ndlovu, who beat Kapini with a low shot to make it 1-1.
Extra time then seemed to be an inevitability, but the Team of Choice completed a remarkable turnaround when Mokate scored the winning goal in the 89th minute. The attacker finished off a fine move after being put in on goal by Fortune Makaringe.
Maritzburg United (0) 2 (Ndlovu 80’, Mokate 89’)
Highlands Park (1) 1 (Sekola 42’)
Maritzburg: Mpandle, Matima (Zakri 75’), Xulu, Onyango, Thlone, Shandu, Makaring, Ndlovu, Kunene (Figareido 46’), Mekoa (Makgalwa 61’), Mokate
Highlands: Kapini, Sibande, Rae (Zwane 60’), Mokoena, Msimango, Ramoraka, Mbatha, Haoseb, Shalulile, Motlafi, Sekola